Fearing that thousands of desperate refugees may show up at their doorstep after the Balkan route to Europe was officially closed, neighboring Albania and Bulgaria are beefing up security along their borders with Greece.
Bulgaria, which has already stationed military troops on the border, said it plans to to build a fence “in case of an increase in migrant pressure” while Albania is enlisting the help of Italian forces.
Italy said it will hold joint military patrols with Albania on the Greek border, fearing that refugees may seek to enter Europe through Italy or Montenegro through the Adriatic Sea.
“Up until now there are no indications that there is a flow of migrants through the Adriatic but it stands to reason that with the closure of the Balkan route another route may open,” said Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters in Brussels during a meeting of interior ministers that unless a “regular and safe window” is found for refugees, new routes into Europe will indeed inevitably open.
“Otherwise we shall see migrants and the ruthless smugglers that are behind them trying to find new routes.”
Germany and Greece have slammed Balkan countries for closing their borders to asylum seekers, with Premier Alexis Tsipras warning that the EU “has no future if it goes on like that.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed similar sentiments, saying the shutdowns were “neither sustainable nor lasting” and would leave Greece on its own to bear the burden of the refugee influx.
Despite the official closure of the Balkan corridor, refugees appear unfazed and continue to flock to the area around Idomeni on the Greek side of the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regardless of the deplorable conditions prevailing at the sprawling and overcrowded camp there, which was also visited Thursday by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.
NGO members told Kathimerini Thursday that the refugees are still arriving at Idomeni because “they don’t want to believe that their journey may end here, they still have some hope that the border may open.”
According to the latest figures, there are 42,000 refugees and migrants scattered throughout Greece while daily inflows into the country continue unabated.