Austria announces permanent closure of Balkan route

Austria announces permanent closure of Balkan route to prevent flow of refugees from reaching northern Europe

Photo by: Reuters Archive
Photo by: Reuters Archive

Stranded refugees make their way through a field towards the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni

Austria's Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told German newspaper "Die Welt" on Thursday that south-eastern Europe’s “Balkan route”, the main gateway for refugees to reach to the northern Europe will remained permanently closed.  

Macedonia closed its border with Greece on Wednesday to refugees after Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, which are on the way to Austria, also announced tight new restrictions on the refugee entry.

"My position is clear: the Balkan route remains closed and that permanently,” Mikl-Leitner told the newspaper.

She said only such a "consistent signal" will stop refugees, many of them fleeing war and conflict in the Middle East and beyond, from crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey to reach European shores.

Thousands of refugees have built up on the Greek side of the Macedonian border and around 10,000 more are stranded in a refugee camp on the Macedonian side of the Serbian border due to the route’s closure.

"This alliance of reason has so far provided the decisive contribution to preserve stability and order for the people in Europe," Mikl-Leitner said in reference to the Balkan countries along the route.

Last month, Austria set off what it called a "domino effect" of national restrictions by limiting the number of refugee flowing into Europe.

In 2015, over 1.5 million refugees arrived in Europe, resulting in fierce political debates across the continent over how to handle the crisis.

TRTWorld, Reuters