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Macedonia and Balkan Route Countries Tighten Borders

The Macedonian government today announced a Balkan route agreement, introducing drastic new measures to increase border security with Greece.

Macedonia, Austria, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia agreed on the rapid exchange of information and new procedures to identify refugees individually at Macedonia’s southern border with Greece.

Every refugee entering Macedonia will undergo a 30-minute interview at the border. The questions will seek to prove nationality. It is yet to be determined when this process will be introduced.

A new registration document will be introduced and additional European police forces will be deployed to patrol the border.

The announcements followed an emergency meeting today of representatives of the Ministries of Interior — the Directors of Police — of Macedonia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. The meeting was called by the Macedonian Bureau of Public Security to discuss the current status of the migrant crisis.

The border between Macedonia and Greece has been subject to a sharp deceleration in refugee movement due to changing registration practices, and has been officially closed three times this year.

Currently Macedonian taxi drivers are blockading the railway on the Macedonian side of the border,  demanding the opportunity to transport refugees through the country for a fee.

Today there are reports of thousands of refugees who are waiting to enter Macedonia, on the Greek side of the border at Idomeni camp and at the Polykastro Gas Station.

As part of the new measures, the Austrian and Slovenian governments will deploy teams of people who speak languages of refugees’ countries of origin, to verify the nationality of the refugees verbally.

People who do not have travel documents, are found carrying forged travel documents, or are assessed as giving false information about their identity or country of origin, will not be allowed to travel. Only refugees who are deemed to be from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan will be allowed to pass.

The Director of the Bureau of Public Security in Macedonia, Goranco Savovski said the measures seek to standardize the documentation of the refugees along the Balkan route.

“The data will be stored in national databases and will be available for (international) data exchange,” said Savovski.

The Directors of Police said that the unified document should be issued by Greece, and to be valid to the final destination country. Greece was not represented at the meeting, however the plan will be presented to Greek authorities for proposed co-operation.

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