2016-03-10 18:49:00

Germany's Merkel condemns closing Balkan route to refugees

(Vatican Radio) German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that closing the route used by migrants fleeing war and poverty through the western Balkans "does not resolve the problem" and that this move is "not sustainable". 

Her comments aired by German radio came while the European Union urged member states to start taking thousands of refugees each month from Greece and Italy as many people remain stranded in what aid workers view as alarming conditions.  

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Merkel told public radio network MDR that Europe's largest refugee crisis since the Second World War would not be solved by what she called "taking a unilateral decision." 

She spoke after western Balkan nations barred entry to transiting refugees from midnight Wednesday.

The German leader said the situation was neither sustainable nor lasting. Merkel acknowledged that Austria's unilateral decision, and then those made subsequently by Balkan countries, would obviously bring fewer refugees but, she added, they put Greece in a very difficult situation.

She stressed that it was crucial to reach a deal with Turkey supported by all the European Union's 28 member states as in her words "Greece cannot bear the weight for long." However Hungary has already threatened to use its veto against the deal if it involves resettling refugees among member states. 


The EU's top migration official, Dmitris Avramopolous, suggested Thursday that at least 23 member states must start taking 6,000 refugees each month from Greece and Italy to ease Europe's migrant burden. 

He warned that if relocation does not work, then the whole system will collapse. However his appeal has done little to ease the pain for as many as 15,000 people who are now stranded in mud and often heavy rain near the Greek-Macedonian border. 

“I’m sick of this, so tired and bored of this, just waiting for nothing," said Nidal from Syria. “I wait and wait and wait, and then there is nothing. I know that there is nothing at the end but I am waiting.” 

Doctors have expressed concern about an outbreak of disease. Christian Reynders of aid group Doctors Without Borders is especially worried about the many children suffering in cold and wet conditions. “We fear that the number of children suffering from these conditions, these particular conditions, the humidity, the smoke inhalation, it will cause them severe damage to their lungs,” he said.  

Further away authorities in Macedonia said hundreds of people, mostly from Syria, remain stranded in no-man's land on the border with Serbia for a third day amid a dispute between the two countries over who should provide shelter for them.  The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has warned that most of them are children and that their situation is alarming.  Yet, with the EU and Turkey still discussing a strategy, there's little hope their suffering will end soon

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