Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said western Balkan countries need urgent assistance in dealing with the huge influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
Kurz said on Monday during a visit to Macedonia that the Western Balkans needs urgent help from the European Union in coping with the humanitarian crisis caused by the swelling number of refugees entering Macedonia and Serbia on the way to the EU.
“The countries in the Western Balkans have been left alone. They need our help,” Kutz said after visiting a refugee camp near the town of Gevgelija, a major entry point for refugees and migrants near Macedonia’s southern border with Greece.
Kurz said that the EU must look and treat all refugee routes equally, including the one that passes through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, and not focus its relief efforts primarily on the one that leads through Italy.
Last week there were chaotic scenes near the border at Gevgelija with clashes between hundreds of refugees who broke through police lines to enter the country and Macedonian officers who used shock grenades in a bid to stop them.
The rights organisation Amnesty International condemned what it called the use of ‘paramilitary measures’ to hold back refugees.
The situation normalised on Sunday when Macedonia laid on trains and buses to help transport the coming refugees to the northern border with Serbia. Most of them want to travel through Macedonia and then Serbia and Hungary to reach the EU.
In Gevgelija, Kurz was joined by the Macedonian Interior Minister Mitko Cavkov and later went to Skopje to meet his counterpart, Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki.
Cavkov said that police have been focusing primarily on ensuring “humane treatment” and the protection of refugees from organised groups who might try to profit from their misfortune as they transit the country, insisting that so far they have been successful.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, also warned on that Sunday that Greece, Macedonia and Serbia would face another massive influx of refugees in the coming days.
The UNHCR has urged the Greek and Macedonian authorities to make additional efforts in order to organise better accommodation for the refugees.
The UN agency also said that the EU should increase its assistance to Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.