2016-03-09 10:00:00

Thousands of refugees stranded as Slovenia closes borders

(Vatican Radio)  Slovenia has effectively closed its borders to most migrants fleeing war and poverty  as part of efforts to close the Balkans route from Greece to Western Europe. In reaction, Serbia said it would shut its borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria to those without valid documents, causing thousands of people lose their patience as they struggle in the mud and rain.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

"Open the borders, safe our children", shouted refugees stranded in the Greek border town of Idomeni near border of Macedonia. Yet their cry for help didn't impress border guards and police who sometimes violently pushed them back.

Macedonia says it reacts to measures taken by other countries. But refugees are shocked that further away Slovenia has closed its borders around midnight local time while other European Union and non-EU nations along the Balkan route have taken similar action. 

"Here there will be a human crisis. The nations need to open the borders. We don't have money, Children are sick, it's freezing. I expected to cross as a human being. I came here thinking that they are the nations of humanity, but I am shocked," a woman said.

Slovenia restrictions

Countries such as Slovenia say only migrants who plan to seek asylum in the country, or those with clear humanitarian needs will be allowed entry.

But in practise many remain stuck, awaiting an uncertain future. 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says it also has deep concerns about the EU’s proposed agreement to solve Europe's biggest refugee crisis since World War Two.

Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR’s Director for Europe, is especially concerned about a plan to return people deemed illegal migrants back to Turkey. “Collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention of Human Rights, so an agreement that would be tantamount to blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law,” he said.

Hungary's fiercely ant-migration Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wants to go even further than the EU. He has already threatened to veto the EU-Turkish agreement if it involves resettling at least some refugees in Europe, a move that could jeopardize the deal.

Hungary already launched a legal challenge against an EU plan to redistribute as many as 160,000 refugees among member states. It also emerged that Hungary wants to reduce cash and other subsidies for asylum-seekers in Hungary, reduce the individual space they are allotted in detention centers to the size given to prison inmates and scrap measures assisting their integration.

Orbán says he wants to protect the Christian culture of Hungary and Europe against an influx of Muslims. But critics point out that Hungary nation of some 10 million people, granted asylum and other protection to just 508 people. 

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