Balkans border closures cause chaos as refugees find ‘too few places’ to go
Feb 25, Athen: Europe is backing into an even greater refugee crisis by tightening border restrictions on the hundreds of thousands fleeing conflicts elsewhere.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who took office on 1 January, visited the port and the refugees and migrants registration centres there on Tuesday, a day that at least 1,800 people made the dangerous crossing by rubber dinghy from Turkey.
“I am very worried about the news we are getting about the increasing closures of the European borders along the Balkans route,” Mr. Grandi said, adding that the situation will create further chaos and increase the burden on Greece, which is already shouldering a big responsibility managing these people.
The need to further promote the option of relocation, noting that while a system for distribution was in place, far too few places – 1,200 – are being offered by European Union countries and too few refugees are agreeing to take part in the scheme. The scheme would significantly reduce the numbers moving to Austria, Germany and Sweden and ease the pressure on Greece, he added.
Last year, more than 500,000 refugees first touched European soil on Lesvos. And so far this year, more than 50,000 have come to the island. Grandi noted that “Europe has not shown much solidarity, but here we see the best face of Europe” with the significant efforts made by the local community, local authorities, volunteers and non-governmental organizations.
The Oslo Times