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Sparks between Macedonia and Greece over the refugees

21 November 2015 / 15:11:41  GRReporter
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Immigrants have blocked the railway line at Idomeni, on the Greek-Macedonian border, and are preventing the passage of freight trains. They want to be allowed to cross the Macedonian border and are threatening a hunger strike. These are migrants who do not hail from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan since Macedonia only allows through its border refugees from these three countries.

At the same time, the situation in the region is explosive. There are hundreds of migrants. They have no shelter and are felling trees to make fires and keep warm. They are also making rounds across neighbourhoods and asking local residents for blankets, firewood or clothes. The problem is expected to worsen as there is a plan for the merger of the two police stations in the city. The area is awaiting a visit by the migration policy deputy minister, Yiannis Mouzalas.


Meanwhile, Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov told Kathimerini that, three weeks after the summit, "nothing has been done to implement the summit's decisions," because the same bureaucratic thinking pattern continues to dominate. Macedonia is trying to cope with the incoming refugees without any financial assistance from the EU. €1 million per month are spent for policing at Idomeni alone. The only aid, which has been received, came from the Italian Red Cross.

Ivanov argued that the flow of refugees is a threat for the whole of Europe and explained that as northern countries are sending back to Macedonia refugees and migrants who refuse to register, then Macedonia feels entitled to do the same. "If we see countries in northern Europe do this, we will follow suit," said the Macedonian President. This is how he explained the fact that 300 migrants from Iran had been sent back to Idomeni after they had been returned from Serbia. This is actually the group, which is blocking the railway line.

Gjorge Ivanov also stressed that "differences over the name of my country should not hinder cooperation between the two countries on security issues." According to the President, 1,000 fighters from the Balkans have gone to Iraq and Syria to take part in the conflict, but 600 of them have already returned.

Meanwhile, Steffen Seibert, head of the German governmental press and information agency, said that a trilateral meeting between Germany, Turkey and Greece on the refugee problem is in the pipeline. According to him, the three countries have discussed the issue and have agreed to hold such a meeting. Seibert added that the exact date and place of the meeting had not been agreed yet.

The German proposal was also mentioned by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during his meeting with Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday in Ankara. According to diplomatic sources, the idea to hold such a meeting has been mooted for a long time. The German proposal had already been mentioned at the meeting between Davutoglu and Tsipras in September in New York.

According to Seibert, the tripartite meeting has already been agreed. But Athens says, the matter has not been finally settled. The Greek side has posed two conditions. The first is to make sure that this meeting will be of particular benefit. The second and more serious condition is to find a formula, according to which the tripartite meeting is going to be held under a European "umbrella". The current talks are precisely about this formula. Diplomatic sources say that the German side shares Greece's concerns that the trilateral meeting might stand isolated from European realities. This might then be used by other countries who are not satisfied with the way the EU is dealing with the problem, and will try to distance themselves from sharing any responsibility on the refugee issue.

Tags: refugees migrants Idomeni Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov a tripartite meeting
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