100,000 places in migrant reception centres to be set up in Balkans: EU’s Juncker

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The EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in Brussels. Aris Oikonomnou / SOOC

Some 100,000 places in reception centres will be provided along the Balkans migrant route starting in Greece to help the EU cope better with the historic influx, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday.

Some 50,000 places will be created in Greece and another 50,000 on the route through Balkans countries such as Macedonia and Serbia, Juncker said after a mini-summit of leaders from the region to discuss the deepening crisis.

More than 670,000 people have landed on European shores this year — many of them fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — in the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

Moving up through the Balkans, they have overwhelmed many countries on the EU’s eastern edge, with Hungary clamping down on border crossings with Serbia and then Croatia to halt the flow into the country.

That in turn has had a huge knock on effect on neighbouring countries, with tiny Slovenia swamped by more than 60,000 migrants in recent days.

Juncker told reporters the summit had agreed a programme of 17 “pragmatic and operational measures to ensure people are not left to fend for themselves in the rain and cold”.

The reception places, to be provided with the help of the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, will be vital to providing shelter, registering the migrants and helping better manage the flows, he said.

“Managing migration flows together is the only way to restore order, to slow down the uncontrolled flow of people. The uncontrolled flow of people must be stopped,” he said.

Some 3,000 people have died making the dangerous Mediterranean sea crossing and with winter fast approaching, the fear is that more could face the same fate on the land route through the Balkans.

Most land first in Greece but, desperate to get to Germany and wealthier northern European countries, thousands have pushed on rather than staying there to have their asylum applications processed as is required under EU rules.

Juncker said the summit, attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s Balkan states plus non-EU Albania, Macedonia and Serbia, agreed a series of other measures to manage the problem.

He said a key element will be getting them to exchange information faster to coordinate efforts, especially on border controls, so as to avoid migrants inundating their neighbours as a result.

-AFP

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