UNICEF says millions more in Syria could become refugees and head to Europe if there is no end to the war.
by Al Jazeera
Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki has said that his country might follow Hungary’s example and build a border fence to stem the influx of refugees trekking through the Balkans to reach Western Europe.
The news comes as foreign ministers from four Central European nations are meeting in Prague on Friday, amid a growing rift over the refugee crisis.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia reject quotas proposed by the EU Commission, which proposed 120,000 additional asylum seekers per year to be shared out between 28 member states.
“We too will need some kind of physical defence to reduce illegal border crossing… Either soldiers or a fence or a combination of the two,” Poposki was quoted as saying in an interview with Hungarian business weekly Figyelo on Thursday.
He said his country was currently forced to let the 3,000 to 4,000 migrants who arrive in his country on a daily basis continue their journey to Serbia and Hungary unimpeded.
“There is no European consensus on how we can handle this question,” he said.
As of 0600 GMT on Friday, an estimated 7,600 refugees had already crossed into Macedonia from Greece in a 24-hour period, according to the UN refugee agency.
Peter Salama, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said millions of people in Syria could become refugees and head to Europe if there is no end to the war.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from the border between Greece and Macedonia on Friday, said the situation has settled down after tensions on Thursday.
At the border crossing station, from where our correspondent was reporting, about 1,500 had crossed on Friday morning. They are reportedly being organised into groups of 50 people.
From there, public transportation will then take them to the border with Serbia, our correspondent said.
But overnight, the situation was tense, with “impatient” refugees facing off with the police.
“Macedonian border police had blocked their path and frustrations grew once more,” she said. “This is not the first time for the Macedonian border guards to use force.”
Syrian refugees Bassem, his wife Marwa, and their child Ali, were among those in the crowd. They left Syria 25 days ago, entering Greece through the island of Rhodes.
Bassem and Marwa told Al Jazeera that they feared Ali would not make the Mediterranean crossing.
“We know it’s going to be difficult here, we know some don’t want us, but it’s still much better than Syria,” Bassem said.
Along with neighbouring Serbia, Macedonia has become a major transit country for tens of thousands of refugees who trudge up from Greece, after risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea crammed into makeshift boats.
The majority are heading for Germany, which has pledged to welcome hundreds of thousands more refugees having already taken in 450,000 to date since January.
So far, more than 160,000 have already crossed through Macedonia on their way to Serbia and Hungary this year.
Last month, the small Balkan nation declared a state of emergency as it struggled to cope with the relentless stream of people.
Reports overnight said that Hungary’s government is considering declaring a state of emergency within the next week.
Hungary completed a razor-wire barrier along its 175km border with Serbia in late August, but it has failed to stop distraught refugees from scaling the barrier.
The central European nation is building another fence four metres high that it aims to complete by late October or early November, and the government has said it will be manned by the military.
Some 85 percent of those hoping to eventually reach wealthy EU nations such as Germany or Sweden are not merely in search of a better life, but have been forced to leave because of wars in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, according to the UN’s refugee agency.
On Friday, the wife of an Austrian politician said Hungarian police have been feeding refugees “like animals in a pen” inside a border camp.
Michaela Spritzendorfer filmed the footage of the refugees surging forward against the fences surrounding them as officers toss food packets to them.
It reportedly happened at a makeshift camp in the Hungarian town of Rozke.
The incident was filmed on the same day the UN commissioner on refugees said conditions were getting worse there.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has ordered his administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the country.
The United States has taken in just 1,500 Syrians since the civil war began in 2011.