24. November 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Stranded migrants sew mouths shut in protest against Balkan border controls“ · Kategorien: Balkanroute, Kroatien, Mazedonien, Serbien, Slowenien · Tags: ,

Quelle: The Guardian

Symbolic act comes as thousands of stranded people protest over Macedonia’s decision to block those not from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan

Seven men have sewed their mouths shut and more than a thousand Iranians, Moroccans and Pakistanis have blocked a train line on the Greek-Macedonian border, in protest against a recent decision by some Balkan countries to block certain nationalities from heading towards northern Europe.

For the first time since hundreds of thousands of people began marching through the Balkans earlier this year, the Macedonian government began filtering them last week on the basis of their perceived need, and is now preventing access for those not from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The move has led to fears of a migrant logjam in Greece and sparked fury among those trapped on the border.

Many chanted in protest on Monday against the decision and tried to block the path of those allowed to cross the border. Pakistanis held posters highlighting the human rights violations in their country, noting in particular recent bloodshed in Peshawar. Seven men also stitched their mouths shut with string and twine after being trapped on the border for up to six days. Most of the seven are believed to be from Iran, but aid workers at the site said it was hard to discern their exact circumstances and motivations.

“It’s difficult to communicate with them,” said Gemma Gillie, a representative of Médecins Sans Frontières who witnessed the scene at the border on Monday. “But they’ve been protesting silently and nothing’s happened – so that’s why they’re doing this.”

According to the UN refugee agency, roughly one in 10 people walking through the Balkans are not Syrian, Afghan or Iraqi. Macedonia no longer wants to give them safe passage since it believes their lives are not in danger and fearsthey may end up stuck on Macedonian soil if countries further to the north begin to filter people in a similar way. In a test case last Wednesday, Slovenia tried to return more than a hundred Moroccans to Croatia, prompting Macedonia to introduce its own restrictions.

Rights groups have questioned the wisdom of blocking people based on their nationality, and argued that each case needs to be assessed on its individual merit. Some Balkan politicians have also expressed unease at the development, with Croatia’s interior minister noting that the circumstances in many countries were too complex to be treated in such a monolithic way.

“It’s very difficult to say. What is Yemen? Is it in a war or not?” Ranko Ostojić, the Croatian interior minister, asked the Guardian on Monday.

He added that it was misguided to attempt to stop the passage of so many people, given that all land borders are in some way porous. “There’s no possibility of making a full stop. There’s no wall that will stop them totally,” he said.

Macedonia’s prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, said he had no intention of stopping people who his government deemed in need of humanitarian protection. But on Sunday he said Europe needed to introduce better border security measures, alluding to the way that at least one of the assailants in the Paris attacks may have reached France after landing in Greece and walking through the Balkans.

Gruevski said: “The status quo is untenable and short-term recommendations do nothing to solve the problem. Macedonia knows that the only solution is European-wide expanded cooperation, real-time exchange of information and additional support so that we may ensure appropriate security and humanitarian outcomes for all involved.”

Refugees making their way through the Balkans, after being allowed to pass through Macedonia, warned against scapegoating them for the actions of Islamic State terrorists in Paris.

“We left home because of those kind of people,” said Jomana Mohamad, whose home in Kobani, northern Syria, was destroyed during an assault by Isis. “We’re running from the same thing that they experienced in Paris, because we’ve experienced that 10 times over.”

Mohamad’s husband, Ahmad, is pushing his mother, a wheelchair user, through the Balkans – a decision he said he had not taken lightly. “Of course we miss Syria,” he said as his eyes teared up. “But there is no life there, and we just want to live.”

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