UN refugee agency concerned by violence at Greek border, calls for improved security

A woman holds a young boy whose face bears signs of distress, near the town of Gevgelija, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on the border with Greece. Photo: UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev

3 December 2015 – As a result of restrictions imposed by the authorities along the Western Balkans route, tensions have been rising at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, prompting the United Nations refugee agency to call on the authorities of both countries to manage the border in a manner consistent with human rights and refugee-protection principles.

Limitations are being placed on refugees and migrants from countries other than Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq along, causing tensions at Idomeni, on the Greek side of the border, which have led on several occasions to violence and a temporary closure of the border, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency expressed deep concern at the situation and added that it is saddened by the death of a Moroccan man at the border today under as yet unclear circumstances.

Further, UNHCR underlined the need for the authorities to take appropriate action and called on the Greek authorities to restore security as a matter of priority in order to ensure the protection of those in need and the safety of humanitarian workers and volunteers.

Additionally, UNHCR said transportation has been facilitated for the refugees and migrants who have been refused admission into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to return to Athens, where reception facilities and assistance are available and UNHCR staff is present to offer individual advice and legal counselling on a case-by-case basis.

The agency reiterated concern over the consequences of border restrictions being implemented by several countries in the Balkans and recommended profiling people based on their protection needs as opposed to their nationality.

UNHCR and other organizations have called on the concerned states to re-establish coordination and response mechanisms agreed at the Western Balkans Summit on 8 October and the Leaders' Meeting on 25 October 2015.

Earlier this week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International organization for Migration (IOM) reported that so far this year, there have been some 730,000 sea arrivals in Greece, with flows heading further into Europe through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

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