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10 February 2016

Migrants cross the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Photo: Amanda Nero / IOM

At the Macedonian Border, Migrants Know Time is Running Out

ON THE migrant trail at the border between Greece and Macedonia, everyone is scared, writes The Economist. Refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are scared that Europe’s doors are closing. Economic migrants from Morocco and Algeria, trying to pass themselves off as refugees, are frightened that they will be turned back and forced to take deadly risks to evade border guards. The Greeks are worried that if the Macedonians seal the border, the refugees will be trapped in Greece. The Macedonians are frightened that the Serbs, one step further along the migrant route, will do the same to them.

The point of arrival for migrants in Macedonia is a transit camp set up last year among the vineyards outside the dusty town of Gevgelija, better known before the crisis as a place where Greeks come to gamble in local casinos or have cheap dentistry work done. The Macedonians built the camp next to the railway line that comes up from the Greek port of Thessaloniki, which crosses the border fence next to a marker bearing the letters SFRJ—the initials of the long-vanished Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Nearby, a covered passage allows refugees to walk from the Idomeni transit camp, just across the fence on the Greek side, up to the checkpoint that brings them into Macedonia.

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Central American migrants cross the river border between Guatemala and Mexico. Photo: Daniel Berehulak / New York Times

Step by Step on a Desperate Trek by Migrants Through Mexico

New York Times writer Azam Ahmed and photographer Daniel Berehulak spent two days with ten men who left Central America in early November to embark on an exhausting journey north to the United States, made riskier by the Mexican authorities’ recent crackdown on migrants.

Fleeing a surge in gang violence and a void of opportunity, record numbers of Central Americans began streaming toward the United States in the spring of 2014. That year, 68,631 children, nearly twice as many as the previous year, were stopped at the US border, having chosen the risks of the 1,000-mile journey over the dangers they faced back home.

To stem the flow, the White House promised aid to help build better lives for the migrants in their own countries. In December, $750 million was approved for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But the Obama administration took other steps, too, pressing the Mexicans to tighten their borders and to create what amounts to a migrant dragnet hundreds of miles south of the United States.

Plan Frontera Sur, as the Mexican government’s campaign is called, serves as a first line of defense for the United States. Deportations have soared in the last year, while the arrests of Central American migrants in this country have more than doubled to more than 170,000 last year from about 78,000 in 2013.

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Migration in the News

  • Xinhua, Reuters, Prensa Latina and others reported that according to IOM estimates, over 76,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea through the first six weeks of 2016.
  • Mail Online ran a dramatic video capturing the moment Turkish coastguards rescued a lone migrant clinging to a boat which sank on route to the Greek island of Lesbos leaving 27 people dead.
  • Sky News and AP reported that Norwegian police believe that refugee children at asylum seeker centres in Norway may have been sexually abused by paedophiles.
  • Daily Mail reported that the think tank MigrationWatch claims that up to three million asylum seekers will arrive in Europe in the next two years.
  • Germany’s rbb reported from Agadez, Niger, where an IOM transit centre offers assisted voluntary return to West African migrants.
  • Sputniknews reported comments made by IOM DG William Lacy Swing to the RIA-Novosti news agency that he did not expect migrant arrivals in Europe in 2016 to diminish.
  • ZEIT online, Deutschlandfunk, Sächsische Zeitung, t-online, euronews, Süddeutsche, RP-online and other German media cited IOM figures on migrant arrivals and deaths in the Mediterranean.
  • EFE reported that Costa Rica has warned thousands of stranded Cuban migrants that unless they board flights to Mexico and El Salvador arranged by IOM to help them to reach the USA, their transit visas will be revoked.
  • Independent UK reported that images have emerged from the Syrian city of Aleppo of mass starvation and children wounded in Russian air strikes. 

Trending on the Internet

  • Daily Mail reported that warships may be deployed to stop migrants crossing the Aegean to Europe under a plan to be discussed by NATO defence chiefs.
  • BBC reported that according to OECD Education Director Andreas Schleicher tests show that migrant children are more motivated to learn than other students.

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