Since 18th November, FYROM, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia have only been allowing nationals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to cross their territory while sending back other asylum-seekers to the other side of the border, thereby carrying out illegal push-backs. This has left many women, men and children stranded in the cold without adequate shelter at the different border points.

In Idomeni, at the Greek border with FYROM, tensions have risen as thousands of people have been waiting there for three days and three cold nights while the Idomeni transit camp has only a reception capacity for 900 people.

NGOs and international organisations, such as Amnesty International and MSF, have denounced the actions taken by the Balkan States, which included collective expulsions and denied access to asylum procedures. UNHCR, IOM and UNICEF have warned that this clampdown would lead to an increase in smuggling.

Swedish MEP Malin Björk commented: “The relatively safe passage that has been created through the Western Balkans route absolutely needs to be maintained. Blocking certain nationalities at the border is a de facto systematic push-back. This arbitrary decision causes additional hardship on the women, men and children who are seeking safety.”

Basque MEP Josu Juaristi  added: “Strong action is urgently needed to reverse the border blocks implemented unexpectedly by the governments of FYROM, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. These people deserve our best welcome, solidarity and commitment, not collective expulsions and discrimination against individuals. We must put ourselves in the place of all these families with so many children coming to Europe in search of hope, a life and a future, to understand this tragedy, and react.”

For Portuguese MEP João Ferreira: “Other than being illegal, these measures worsen a situation that was already one of a humanitarian emergency. The European Union has clear responsibilities that cannot be ignored. The inhuman nature of EU policies must change now and safe and legal routes must be created for those seeking a safe haven  in Europe.”

Note to editors:  GUE/NGL MEPs Malin Björk, João Ferreira and Josu Juaristi were on a GUE/NGL delegation to the Western Balkans from Thursday 12 November till Monday 16 November. During this voyage, they had the opportunity to see the situation on the ground in transit camps in Greece, FYROM, Serbia and Croatia. They met with many refugees, NGOs, volunteers and government officials. During the time of their visit, all people in need of protection were still allowed to cross the borders, irrespective of their nationality.

For more information:

Amnesty International, “Refugee Crisis: Balkans border blocks leave thousands segregated and stranded in Greece”, 20/11/2015,


GUE/NGL Press Contacts:

Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20

Nikki Sullings + 32 483 03 55 75

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