Afghan refugees stranded in Greece after Macedonia closes border
From Sunday, the landlocked Balkan country denied asylum-seekers entry, even as several other countries in the region also tightened restrictions on the entry of refugees.
Macedonia on Sunday closed its borders to refugees, leaving more than 5,000 stranded so far. Hundreds of Afghan refugees protested at Idomeni, a Greek village near the Macedonian border, holding up signs that said, “We don’t need food. Just open borders”. Macedonia is just north of Greece, and has been a common passageway for refugees travelling into Europe, towards countries such as Germany and Sweden. Greece said it was taking action and trying to convince Macedonia to open its borders.
Serbia has also moved to block refugees from travelling into the country. Al Jazeera reported that last week, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Macedonia and Croatia signed a statement that announced tighter restrictions on the entry of refugees into their countries. On Friday, Austria announced a cap on the number of refugees it allowed into the country, though the move was heavily criticised.
Another 3,000 refugees who landed at the port of Piraeus have been stranded in Athens, Greece. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2016 alone, more than 1 lakh refugees have made their way to Europe across the Aegean Sea. Though many of them are from Syria and Iraq, where international forces are attempting to neutralise Islamic State militants, people from other conflict-hit countries including Afghanistan have also fled their homes.