Thursday, February 25, 2016

Migrants find doors slamming shut across Europe

— Nations along Europe’s refugee route are taking the boldest steps yet to clamp down on migrant flows, trapping thousands of asylum seekers and potentially blocking countless war-weary families from finding sanctuary in the West.

The crackdown in recent days, aid groups say, comes at the worst possible time — just as new arrivals are rapidly increasing and the majority of migrants, once single men, are now women and children. An even larger surge from the Middle East and beyond is expected in the coming weeks, with tens of thousands more migrants set to land in Greece and start the long trek northwest to Europe’s core.

But crisis-weary countries from Austria to Macedonia are now moving to bar the doors. Since Sunday, Macedonia and Serbia, for instance, have blocked passage to virtually all Afghans — a group accounting for roughly a third of all migrants. Even many Syrians and Iraqis without proper documentation are being turned away, aid groups and U.N. officials say, leaving a quickly increasing number of desperate asylum seekers stranded in nearly bankrupt Greece.

There were other signs that the main route traversed by more than 1 million migrants last year was breaking down, with aid groups saying Croatia and Slovenia are also refusing entry to more asylum seekers. Slovenia’s parliament voted late Monday to dispatch the army for border control. And in yet another blow to the cherished ideal of free movement in Europe, Belgium said Tuesday that it would set up border controls on its frontier with France to block migrants recently cleared from a sprawling camp in Calais from entering its territory.

Afghans, meanwhile, were being stranded at various points along the 1,000-mile route from Athens to Vienna, as observers warned of an impending humanitarian crisis that could rival the peak of Europe’s refugee emergency this past fall.
The situation isn’t good for us; there are no proper bathrooms or medical care. It’s very cold,” said Teimoorshah Yousefi, 40, one of 600 Afghans stranded at a northern Macedonian border crossing this week. He, along with his wife and two sons, ages 10 and 13, were being refused entry by Serbia. The family, he said, was getting frantic.

On Tuesday, frustrated Greek police cleared hundreds of protesting Afghans from railroad tracks where they were staging a sit-in. In videos and photos, ­Afghan children held signs begging Macedonian authorities to “please help us cross border.” - Read More at the washingtonpost 


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