Migrants stranded on the border between Greece and Macedonia protested against not being allowed to carry on with their journey by sewing their lips together.
According to BBC, border controls across Europe have become stricter since the Paris attacks on November 13 that killed 129 people and injured hundreds of others. Last week, Balkan countries said that they will only admit those fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. This move by countries like Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia caused a mass of refugees to gather at the borders.
“At this moment the worst situation is at the Idomeni border crossing in Greece, where at least 2,000 Iranians, Moroccans and other nationals are stranded after the border was closed for everyone except Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees,” Zagreb-based Milena Zajovic, spokesperson for the Are You Syrious group, said. “Volunteers have witnessed very shocking situations during the past few days. One desperate Pakistani man tried to hang himself in front of everyone on Saturday, while today [Monday] a group of Iranians started sewing up their mouths in an act of protest.”
Macedonia’s President, Gjorgje Ivanov, said that the stream of “migrants” entering the country has caused tensions “between refugees and migrants, the migrants and police and army, and between migrants and local people.” While the country could provide refuge to 2,000 people in its temporary transit centers, an increase in the number could “increase permanent and direct threats and risks for the national security.”
According to Al Jazeera, the move to restrict the passage for migrants to only those fleeing war-torn countries is being opposed by rights groups, who insist that admission should be granted on the basis of merit and not by nationality. Jill Goldenziel, professor of human rights and refugees at Harvard University, said, “Screening refugees is what you’re supposed to do; the Refugee Convention guarantees individual rights of refugees [but] it’s not okay to screen by country… They are not processing individual claims.”
Goldenziel further said that if Balkan countries were unable to support a large number of migrants, members of the European Union and the world over “need to come up with a way or system to help process” individual claims.
In 2015, there has been a sharp increase in the influx of refugees seeking asylum in Europe. As many as 800,000 people arrived in Italy and Greece by mid-November, and a few others in Spain and Malta. A large percentage of these traveled from the affected countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Iraq, according to UNHCR.