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Border restrictions cause 'increasingly untenable situation' for migrants - UNHCR

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By Sarah Taylor  with Amnesty International, UNHCR, IOM
Border restrictions cause 'increasingly untenable situation' for migrants - UNHCR

New restrictions on the movement of migrants and refugees through the Western Balkans have resulted in days of protests on Greece’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Most of those demonstrating hail from Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Iran.

“I have a question: what (is) the difference between Iranian people and the others? Why? Please help us,” pleaded Remza, a migrant from Iran.

Some are on hunger strike. Others have sewn their mouths shut.

New screening processes

Macedonian, Serbian and Croatian authorities all changed their border-control practices on the evening of November 18. The former Yugoslav Republic and Serbia are now only allowing people of Iraqi, Syrian or Afghan origin through.

Croatia is also carrying out stringent checks. According to Amnesty International, it has bussed a number of Moroccan, Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals back to Serbia.

Those who are able to enter the country mainly travel north to Slovenia.

From there they hope to enter Austria.

Domino effect

The screening procedures are causing a domino effect across Europe. As winter sets in, the UN Refugee Agency, International Organization for Migration and the UN Children’s Fund warn the measures are creating “an increasingly untenable situation from every point of view.”

On Friday (November 20) UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told the press:

“These measures by states are creating tension at border crossings and a domino effect, leaving in total limbo some refugees stranded at different border points.”