UN says restrictions in Balkans violate refugee convention

United Nations says Balkan countries are violating international refugee convention by enforcing restrictions, border closures targeting refugees

Photo by: UNHCR
Photo by: UNHCR

A Syrian refugee Nogeen, 16, waits to be carried from the shoreline to the road after landing on the Greek island of Lesvos with her older sister Nisreen.

The United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday that Secretary General Ban Ki moon is worried about the increasing number of border restrictions in the Balkan countries which he says violates the international refugee convention.

The border enforcements in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia "are not in line" with the 1951 convention "because individual determination of refugee status and assessment of individual protection needs are not made possible," said the spokesman.

The convention relating to the status of refugees, which was signed in 1951 and took effect in 1954, was limited only to the European countries before 1951. But a protocol signed in 1967, as an addition to the convention, removed the time limits for the refugees and guarantees rights "without any geographic limitation."

Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia said Friday they would each restrict the number of refugees allowed to enter their territories to 580 per day.

That announcement came after Austria said last week that will accept daily only 80 asylum seekers and would allow no more than 3,200 refugees to pass through each day.

Dujarric said the refugee flow, most of them coming from war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq, continues entering European countries and the border closures along the Balkan route “are creating a difficult situation in Greece.”

Ban is "fully aware of the pressures felt by many European countries" during the refugee crisis, spokesman said.

"However, he calls on all countries to keep their borders open, and to act in a spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity, including through expanding legal pathways to access asylum."

Close to 120,000 refugees have already arrived in Europe so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency.

TRTWorld and agencies