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News 04 Sep 15

Ministers Sign Memo on Balkan Refugee Flow

Ministers from Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria, the states most affected by the refugee flow through the Balkans, on Friday agreed to boost the fight against traffickers and coordinate the relief effort.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: mvr.org.mk

A memorandum of cooperation on refugees and migrants was signed on Friday in Ohrid, Macedonia by ministers from Macedonia, Austria, Serbia and Hungary.

Interior Minister Mitko Cavkov represented Macedonia, Johanna Mikl-Leitner siged for Austria, Nebojsha Stefanovic for Serbia and Deputy Interior Minister Krisztina Berta for Hungary.

“There are no fragmented solutions to global migration issues. This document represents a platform for our further joint activities and concrete conclusions that will be sent to the next meeting of EU Interior Ministers,” Cavkov said.

The memorandum envisages better communication between the countries concerned and defines the need for more EU help for the problem.

It also highlights the need to engage in a tougher fight with the traffickers who are profiting from the refugees and who often endanger their lives.

“We are faced with a great challenge,” Mikl-Leitner said, referring to the EU as well as the Balkans.

Macedonia has seen a major surge in entries on its southern border with Greece. Up to 3,000 people now cross the country each day on their way north to Serbia, Hungary and then Western Europe.

In parallel with Friday's events in Ohrid, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki headed to Luxembourg, the current holder of the EU presidency, for an informal meeting with EU Foreign Affairs Ministers and minsters from countries that are along the Balkan transit route. Turkey, which is sheltering some 2 million Syrian refugees, was also invited.

Meanwhile the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, in Geneva on Friday called on European countries to accept some 200,000 refugees and migrants in a scheme that would provide for their settlement distributed equally among all countries.

Macedonia’s neighbour, Kosovo, which is not directly on the refugee route, is also mulling taking in some refugees.

President Arifete Jahjaga on Friday called on the government to accept some 3,000 refugees from Syria who could be settled in former military camps used by KFOR peacekeeping forces.

Few, in any, Middle Eastern migrants want to remain long term in the Balkans, however. Most are aiming for Germany, which expects to receive up to 800,000 asylum applications this year.

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