Slovenia announced plans to introduce new border controls on Tuesday to stop the flow of refugees from Greece to Western Europe through the Balkan route. It will now allow only those who are seeking asylum in the country and have clear humanitarian needs.
Serbia also announced it will close its borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria to those who do not have valid documents. Croatia also joined the decision with Slovenia and Serbia. The developments have put the future of EU’s passport free Schengen zone.
As the news of closing down the borders reached the refugees at the camps set up along the Greece-Macedonia border, they realised they would no longer be able to travel through the Balkans to reach Europe.
An asylum seeker woman, who was holding a baby in her arms, broke down at the news, according to AP reports. Aslan al Katib, a 21-year-old Syrian engineering student from Damascus, said that he will wait and hopes to continue their journey.
“It’s a bad situation. What are we now to do? What are we waiting for?” the AP quoted Al Katib as saying. “I work hard. Just give me security.”
Eight EU members including Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia implemented stricter border controls which left thousands of asylum seekers stranded in Greece. For a long time, Slovenia was being used by the asylum seekers as a transit to reach Germany and other northern European countries.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced the shutting down of the Balkan route on Tuesday. The restrictions, which were implemented at midnight local time, would also prompt other Balkan countries, and also Greece to return all irregular asylum seekers, the BBC reported.
Turkey and EU are working on plans to return all asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey and for each Syrian returned to Turkey, another Syrian would be resettled in EU. Amnesty International called the proposal a blow to the right to seek asylum, while concerns were also raised by the United Nations.