Today, an additional €10 million programme in EU assistance was adopted by the European Commission to help the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia improve its border and migration management systems in the context of the refugee crisis.
Macedonia has been the main transit point for almost 700,000 migrants heading from Greece to Western and Northern Europe on the so-called Balkan route since the beginning of 2015. To prevent “certain irregular migrants from crossing the Greece-Macedonian border” Macedonian authorities are finalizing the construction of a new barbed-wire fence at the border with Greece. More than 68,000 refugees have been registered entering Macedonia since the beginning of the year, and police say they stopped about 4,000 people trying to cross illegally in January alone. Recently Macedonia has intermittently closed the border to refugees and it is now allowing across only those wishing to go to Germany or Austria, following similar decisions further along the migrant trail.
The EU is ready to extend the assistance to other Western Balkan countries, taking into account the request for assistance from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the results of the Commission visit carried out in January 2016. This Special Measure aims at supporting Skopje to improve their border and migration management capabilities, including systematic border checks and border surveillance, the identification and registration of third-country nationals crossing the border in a regular and irregular fashion, and the combating and prevention of migrant-smuggling, human trafficking and cross-border crime in full respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights.