The Balkan route

As of Wednesday, the final legal door seems to have been slammed shut on the route, after Slovenia announced it would close its borders to migrants. That move was the culmination of months of ever-increasing limits on the ability of refugees to traverse the path.

Here's a look at the developments of the controls along the route amid the crisis. Note, these controls all apply to migrants: Regular travelers, especially those in possession of passports recognized by Schengen-area countries, can still travel freely.


Many refugees start the journey after they've made it to Turkey, from where they must make the dangerous water crossing of the Aegean Sea. About 850,000 made the crossing in 2015, but hundreds of others died in the attempt.

In recent weeks, Greece has opened hotspots to try to manage the flow of people onto its territory. But many migrants avoid these official sites and work their way north.


At least 13,000 migrants remain massed in a camp at the border town of Idomeni in Greece, with little hope of making it to Macedonia, partially due to a 30-kilometre fence laced with razor wire that Macedonia began building in November.

Officials until recently waved refugees on through to Macedonia. That changed February 18 when countries along the route - excluding Greece - agreed to only allow passage for Syrians and Iraqis, granting them a document that secured passage.  

The initial control started the backup in Idomeni, which was only worsened as additional controls were implemented by successive countries. Movement came to a halt on March 9, when Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia said they will not allow any more migrants to pass.


The border between Macedonia and Serbia, 200 kilometres north of Idomeni, remains without a fence, as only refugees with papers issued at Macedonia reach the camps in Tabanovce and in Presevo, on the Serbian side.

Police began overseeing and organizing the transport of people in the late summer. Since then, only trains and authorized buses have been allowed to shuttle migrants further.


Initially, the preferred route for refugees took them through Hungary. That stopped when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered a fence to be built along the 175-kilometre border with Serbia and sealed it in mid-September. Since then, the flow of migrants has headed through Croatia.


Initial flows through Croatia still went through Hungary, which then erected more fencing and closed the border with its fellow EU member in mid-October.

Croatian authorities then began to shuttle the migrants out of the country onwards towards Slovenia.


The smallest country on the route, Slovenia immediately began requesting countries towards the beginning of the Balkan route to stifle the flow of migrants.

In November, Ljubljana began stretching a razor-wire barrier across its entire border with Croatia, saying it wanted to channel the migrants toward controlled crossing points.

Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia followed Slovenia's lead in setting a daily cap of 500 migrants on February 25.


Austria lets in only 80 people a day, and only those who can claim they need protection. A further 3,200 are allowed to transit the country to apply for asylum elsewhere. However, actual numbers have stayed below these quotas since they were introduced on Feburary 19.

Fences have only been built at the main border crossing with Slovenia to channel arrivals towards the checkpoint. However, there are plans to set up such controls at 12 additional crossings at the southern border with Slovenia and Italy, in case the migration flow shifts.


Germany has carried out checks at its border with Austria since September. Although Berlin has never declared a quota system, the Austrian government has pointed out that German police have set hourly limits that amount to a maximum of 3,600 migrants per day.

This left up to 20,000 people temporarily stranded on the Austrian side at the peak of the migration crisis last year.

Related stories

Croatia builds fence at Serbian border as migrants return

Orban: Hungary to keep migrants away, premier says

Balkan route became the new path to Europe in 2015

Macedonian army starts building fence on Greek border

Migrants seek new routes into Balkans

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.