News 19 Feb 16

Balkan States Agree to Transport Migrants to Austria

Police chiefs of Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia have agreed to transport migrants directly from the Greece-Macedonia border to Austria.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Croatian chief of police Vlado Dominic. | Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Damir SENCAR/DS

At a meeting in Zagreb on Thursday, the police chiefs of Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia agreed to organize the joint transport of Middle Eastern migrants from the Macedonia-Greece border all the way to Austria, where they will have the chance to stay or continue their journey to Germany.

Police in each country will guarantee the passage of the migrants while within their countries' limits. All the migrants will also be profiled by officials of all five countries.

“We’ll sign a joint statement on how to profile and transport the migrants from the Greek-Macedonian border to Germany,” Vlado Dominic, chief of the Croatian police, said.

Dominic explained that profiling will include interviews, and only those persons will be able to continue their journeys through the above-mentioned states.

“We will inform the governments of the five countries about the agreement and we will send it to the Council of Europe so that all the heads of EU countries that are now meeting in Brussels get to know it,” he added.

Dominic explained that the goal was to make travel from Greece to Austria “painless” and avoid having to deport people back. Albania and Bulgaria will be included in the system later, as the possibility exists of an influx of migrants to these countries if Macedonia closes its borders.

Since last spring, all the countries along the so-called "Balkans Route" have been dealing with an influx of refugees and migrants, coming mostly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also from Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Eritrea and Algeria.

The refugee wave peaked during the summer and autumn of 2015, when over 10,000 people entered Croatia on daily basis, continuing their travel towards Slovenia and Hungary and later towards Germany. Over 600,000 people have entered and left Croatia since last September.

Austria started to implement a new cap on migrants on Friday, allowing in only 3,200 refugees a day from countries at war.

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