The Austrian government is hosting top ministers from several Balkan countries Wednesday to discuss strategies to reduce migrant flows (DW). Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia have faced criticism from other European leaders over new restrictions on migrant entries that have effectively left thousands of Afghan asylum seekers stranded at border checkpoints in Greece (NYT), sparking clashes between migrants and Greek authorities Tuesday. Austria declined to invite Greece to the conference, eliciting a diplomatic protest from Athens. Wednesday’s meeting precedes a summit planned for March 7 between EU members and Turkey on migration. More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in 2016 (WaPo), sharply exceeding figures from the same period last year.
“The new steps taken by Macedonia, however, marked only the latest in a string of measures meant to choke off the single-busiest migrant route. In November, Macedonia began barring all but Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans in an effort to weed out economic migrants. The decision now to exclude Afghans, critics say, is a dramatic escalation,” writes Anthony Faiola for the Washington Post.
“It is the realisation of a worst-case scenario becoming reality for EU authorities, in which Greece would be in effect cut off from the Schengen area and left to cope with hundreds of thousands of stranded refugees, while still being itself in the middle of an economic and social crisis,” writes Eric Maurice for EU Observer.
“This whole thing is a debacle, awkward and deserving of criticism. But it's not about political games. The fact that everyone in Europe only wants something for themselves prevents those who are truly in need from receiving proper help,” writes Barbara Wesel for Deutsche Welle.
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