Balkan countries along the well-trodden migrant path towards northern Europe met Wednesday to explore ways to stem the flow despite growing fears that tighter controls will spark a humanitarian crisis, particularly in Greece.
The talks come after figures showing Europe’s migrant headache continuing to rage, with over 110,000 people arriving in Greece and Italy so far this year alone, following more than one million in 2015.
The influx has boosted anti-immigration parties, driven a wedge among many of the 28 members of the European Union and thrown into doubt the continent’s cherished passport-free Schengen Zone that is crucial for commerce.
Sparked by sparked by Austria’s much-criticized introduction last week of daily migrant limits, countries throughout the western Balkans have begun unilaterally to impose restrictions. Most recently, Macedonia has closed its frontier to Afghans and introduced more stringent document checks for Syrians and Iraqis seeking to travel to northern and western Europe. The restrictions have caused a bottleneck of thousands of people at the Greek-Macedonian border.
Amnesty International hit out Wednesday at Europe’s “shameful” response, saying most EU countries had “simply decided that the protection of their borders is more important than the protection of the rights of refugees”.