Serbia will stop all migrants from transiting its territory unless they say they are refugees who plan to ask for shelter in Austria or Germany, Welfare Minister Aleksandar Vulin said Wednesday.
“Based on the decision of the Austrian government ... [Serbia will] not allow migrants to continue unless they state intent to seek asylum in the territory of Austria and Germany,” Vulin told reporters in a migrant reception centre.
Effective “as of today,” the measure will be implemented on the border with Macedonia, he said, elaborating that a column will be added to the registration form asking migrants where they intend to seek asylum.
Austria decided on Wednesday to limit the influx of asylum seekers to 37,500 this year and a total of 127,500 until mid-2019.
In Ljubljana, Slovenian Foreign Minister Karel Erjavec said that its country was to discuss measures on Thursday that may include a ceiling for the number of migrants allowed in, the STA news agency reported.
With Slovenia and Croatia expected to also cut the number of people allowed in, the Serbian measures are an attempt to avoid a backlog of migrants on its soil.
Macedonia was also set to limit the influx from Greece, the main gateway for most of the migrants and refugees trying to reach Western Europe for asylum.
In November, all of the countries on the Balkan migration route started filtering all migrants who are not refugees from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. This led to a build-up of refugees between Greece and Macedonia that dissipated within a few weeks.
In 2015, around 850,000 people, most of them refugees - but also many so-called economic migrants - passed along the Balkan route, from Turkey, across the Aegean and then through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.
European leaders have been pressing for a more effective control of the Turkey-Greece border. But the present drop in arrivals, which still average around 2,000 per day, appears to be more linked to stormy weather in the Aegean than recent government measures.