UN accuses Austria and Balkan countries of migrant "chaos"

The new restrictions on migrants along the Balkan route are "creating chaos at several border points," the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday expressing concern because of recent "restrictive practices" adopted by a number of European countries including Austria, Slovenia and Macedonia.

The measures introduced last week by Austria and Balkan countries are "putting particular pressure on Greece as it struggles to deal with larger numbers of people in need of accommodation and services," UNHCR says.

Due to daily limits and profiling according to nationality, this could lead to people being stranded in the open exposed to freezing cold weather and at risk of violence and exploitation by smugglers and traffickers, the agency says.

Even though refugees are fleeing from war and persecution "it appears some European countries are focusing on keeping refugees and migrants out more than on responsibly managing the flow and working on common solutions," the UNHCR says on its website.

Greek police on Tuesday morning transferred hundreds of Afghan migrants by bus to Athens, who had been stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border after Macedonia had barred them from accessing admission en route to northern Europe.

At least seven buses departed for Athens carrying numerous Afghan families who will be temporarily placed in reception centres near the country's capital, police sources said.

Around 600 Afghans staged a protest on Monday near the railway at the Idomeni crossing on the Greek-Macedonian border demanding that the border be opened and condemning Macedonia's decision not to let them through. Three migrants managed to break through the police cordon and jump over the border fence before being apprehended on Macedonian  territory.

Around 4,000 migrants were stationed in Idomeni on Tuesday, including many Syrians and Iraqis who were allowed across the border but at a slower pace.

The Italian coast guard has reported that it had saved 700 migrants between Tunisia and Sicily on Tuesday. Four migrants were found dead.

More than 100,000 people fleeing from war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have arrived this year in Greece and Italy, a huge jump compared with 2015, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported.

Last update: Tue, 23/02/2016 - 17:52

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