Macedonian army reinforces fence with Greece to block migrants

By bne IntelliNews February 8, 2016

The Macedonian army (ARM) is reinforcing the fence along its border with Greece, as part of efforts to protect the border from illegal migrants, the army general staff’s spokesperson said on February 8.

The Macedonian army built a three kilometre long metal fence along its southern border with Greece in November 2015, when hundreds of migrants from Asia and Africa were stranded on the border, following the decision of the Macedonian authorities to allow passage only to refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The measure was introduced after migrants started to use illegal crossings to enter Macedonia on their road to west European countries.

“The activities started yesterday (February 7) afternoon,” spokesperson, lieutenant colonel, Toni Janevski told bne IntelliNews. At first we started with repair works, he added.

Janevski did not elaborate on the reasons, saying that the army was only implementing orders from the relevant authorities.

He also did not say how long the new fence at the Macedonian-Greek border near the southern city of Gevgelija will be.

Some 20,000 illegal migrants have been prevented from entering Macedonia in the last few months, since the first fence was installed, daily Kapital said on February 8, quoting sources from the ARM and interior ministry.

In January alone, over 4,000 migrants were prevented from crossing the border. According to EU rules, only refuges from warzones in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are allowed to cross the border but not so-called economic migrants who want to travel to Europe to find jobs.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers in Macedonia announced protests starting from February 10 accompanied by an one-hour blockage of the border, saying the authorities had breached an agreement with drivers when deciding to transport migrants only by train, Nova TV reported on February 7,

Previously, migrants had been allowed to use Macedonian trains by night, while taxi drivers transported them during the day. Some 280 taxi drivers are expected to participate in the protests.

Taxi drivers protested for several days in early February when they blocked the tracks and allowed only small number of refuges to enter the country.

Some 60,000 migrants have crossed the border since the beginning of the year.

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