Thursday, April 28, 2016

FYROM and Serbia border: Escape, stranded, waiting -- stuck refugees along Balkan route expect way out

Nedal Alsheikh Ali and his family had been stuck at a refugee transition center in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for several days.

According to the 20-year-old Syrian guy, the borders connecting FYROM and Serbia had been sealed for refugees, which meant that his family cannot continue to travel northward to a European Union (EU) country where they want to apply for asylum.

Ali, who now often helps a non-governmental organization bringing aid materials to the refugee transit center, told Xinhua that he came from northwestern Syria, where a lot of conflicts are occurring and aerial bombardment happens time and again.

So his family of 11 people decided to escape to Europe earlier this year, "maybe Germany or any country if not Germany."


  • Firstly, Ali's family went towards Turkey. According to him, due to the closure of Turkey-Syria bordering areas, they stayed two days in the nearby mountains, cold and raining.

"Then some body came saying they can take us to Turkey," Ali said it cost about 600 U.S. dollars for the whole family to go to Turkey with the smugglers.

  • Then they stayed in Turkey for about six days, waiting for the sea to be peace enough to cross by boat.

"We gave (smugglers) 750 dollars per person by taking the boat (to Greece)," he said. After arriving an island of Greece, they then took ship and bus to Idomeni at Greece's border with the FYROM.

According to Ali, after then they traveled to the FYROM, when the borders along the Balkan routes were still open. However, his sister is going to deliver a baby, and the new mother stayed in hospital for about a dozen of days, so they had to stay and cannot continue to travel.

  • Unfortunately, the new-born baby went dead after about 20 days.

"The baby is good. One day is good, two days is good. Maybe just a little problem," said Ali in a little bit broken English, noting that they cannot imagine why it became a big problem to the baby and the hospital did nothing helpful for the baby.

What was more sad for Ali was that, the border restrictions then tightened and the police said they cannot move, so they were stranded at the refugee transit center unless they apply for asylum in the FYROM, which does not belong to the EU.

From then on, Ali found the non-governmental organizations gave the refugees a lot they needed, and he wanted to help the humanitarian workers which provided food and clothes to the refugees.

He talked to one of the organizations, which was based in the FYROM, that he wanted to help, not for money, just for the refugees.

"I cannot just sit," said Ali, who used to be a student in Syria and did a lot of short-term work after the school closure due to wars.

"After being stranded here, I learn English step by step from people, (asking them) what is this and what is that," he said, adding that he wanted to know everything, but at this moment his family can just wait for the possibility of countries' relaxing border restricts.

This route leading from Turkey and Greece, through the western Balkans towards western Europe has been sealed for majority of refugees since February, but many refugees still remain in the transitional border camps demanding to be allowed to continue their journey.

According to Frontex, the European agency for the coordination of operations at the external borders of the EU, the record number of migrants arriving in Greece had a direct knock-on effect on the Western Balkan route, as the people who entered the EU in Greece tried to make their way via the FYROM, Serbia into Hungary and Croatia and then towards western Europe.

In all of 2015, the region recorded 764,000 detections of illegal border crossings by migrants, a 16-fold rise from 2014. The top-ranking nationality was Syrian, followed by Iraqis and Afghans.
  • At the transition center for migrants in the FYROM's Gevgelija area, where borders Greece, a Syrian refugee who declined to give his name told Xinhua that he was thinking about going back to Syria, because he was "used to life in Syria, and Syria is better."

  • The man recalled that they traveled from Syria to Greece via Turkey. During the journey from Syria to Turkey, it cost about 1,000 dollars for his family, and they gave smugglers about 1,500 dollars per person from Turkey to Idomeni.

When touring from Turkey to Greece on the sea, a big wave hit the small boat with 49 people on board, before the coastguards took them to Lesvos island of Greece.

"We are registered by the Greek police, afterwards, we continue to travel to the border area of Idomeni," he said, noting that after a couple of days, they managed to cross to the FYROM.

He said as they were stuck in the FYROM, they can just wait to see what would happen.

Mohammad Arif, UNHCR representative in Skopje, told Xinhua in a recent interview that he thought it is very difficult to stop the flow of refugees, or asylum seekers, or migrants, because the root causes are still not resolved.

"You can close this border, you can close that border, but then still the flow will continue. They may not come this way. They may go to Albania, they may go towards some route that we have not heard so far. So the dynamics of the flow may change but it will continue," he said.

Arif thought that in the future the Balkan route may not be so active as it was in the past months, but one cannot say what will happen tomorrow, what will happen to the agreement between the EU and Turkey and how all this will work. And in his view the flow will continue.

In the Greek border camp of Idomeni, over 11,000 migrants still hope they will be granted permission to proceed toward western Europe.

On the other side of the border, in the FYROM, the number of migrants in the transition camp has not increased in the past month. Around 130 migrants remain in the camp without an option to continue their journey. An additional 1,000 migrants are in Tabanovce, at the border between the FYROM and Serbia.
   [Xinhua -globaltimes.cn]
28/4/16
 ***[GREECE recognized this country with the name "FYROM"]
***[UN  resolution A/RES/47/225 of 8 April 1993]
***El Kratos,  Xinhua and globaltimes.cn use the recognized name FYROM.
By using
El Kratos,  Xinhua and globaltimes.cn, you agree to the U.N. Charter in this issue.




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