Country Report Macedonia
- ID: 2123793
- August 2015
- Region: Macedonia
- 28 Pages
- The Economist Intelligence Unit
Amidst an unprecedented surge in migration into Europe, some Balkan countries are struggling to manage the influx of migrants headed from Turkey to Hungary via Greece, Macedonia and Serbia-the shortest and straightest path to the Schengen-area states. The spike in arrivals in recent months caught local authorities off guard. The EU, focused until recently on the Libya-Italy migrant route, has been slow to react. The migrant stream is coming from one Schengen state (Greece) to another (Hungary), with Macedonia and Serbia, which are not even members of the EU, stuck in the middle without any clear entitlement to significant aid from Brussels. The crisis is already having negative political repercussions for both, with Macedonia declaring a state of emergency in two border regions on August 20th and Serbia facing difficulties as a result of Hungary's decision to build a perimeter fence to keep the migrants out.
The European border agency, Frontex, released figures showing that 340,000 migrants arrived in Europe in January-July 2015, compared with 280,000 in the whole of 2014. In July alone some 107,500 arrived, 50,000 of them in Greece (more than that crisis-ridden country received in all of 2014). Some 90% of these migrants were from Syria or Afghanistan. Greece, rather than Italy, is now the first destination, thanks to people smugglers in Turkey. The dramatic increase in migrants arriving on Greek islands such as Kos and Lesbos from Turkey has placed an intolerable strain on the limited resources of the local authorities there. The eruption of fighting between migrant groups and robust police responses on Kos, where authorities tried to secure 1,500 migrants in a stadium, have galvanised the Greek government into belated action. The government has started to empty existing camps and facilitate the rapid transfer of migrants from the islands to Athens, and then by public buses to Thessaloniki and to the Macedonian border.
Macedonia is the next transit country for migrants heading from Greece to other EU member states such as Germany (where one in three migrants into Europe are headed) and Sweden. However, faced with huge numbers at the southern Macedonian-Greek border town of Gevgelija and in the region of Kumanovo near the Macedonia-Serbian border to the north, on August 20th Macedonia's government declared a state of emergency in the two border regions, allowing the army to be deployed to help to deal with the huge numbers of migrants congregating there. On August 21st Macedonia's riot police used tear gas to disperse thousands of migrants trying to enter Macedonia from Greece after the Macedonian border had been sealed. Some 44,000 people have reportedly travelled through Macedonia in the past two months, many of them fleeing violence in Syria and Afghanistan. SHOW LESS READ MORE >