Posted on March 7, 2016

Macedonia Reveals Plans to Build 200-Mile-Long Fence on Its Border with Greece

John Stevens, Daily Mail, March 6, 2016

Dramatic plans to build a 200-mile-long fence protected by guards armed with tasers were tonight revealed before a key summit in Brussels to stop the flow of migrants through the continent.

EU leaders will tomorrow pledge to close down the route from Greece through the Balkans where more than 985,000 have travelled since the start of last year.

Ahead of the meeting, Macedonia has requested that neighbouring countries help it seal the thoroughfare by extending the existing 19-mile razor-wire fence on its southern border with Greece and providing extra guards and riot gear.

The former Yugoslav republic, which is not a member of the EU, has sent a list of demands including bullet-proof vests, truncheons, handcuffs, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and grenades filled with rubber balls.

Officials in Skopje have also asked for 35 tasers and a sound cannon that would be fitted to an armoured vehicle and used to break up crowds by emitting a pain-inducing noise.

Around 14,000 people are currently stuck on the Greek side of the border at Idomeni after Macedonian authorities started limiting the number of people they would let through to just a few hundred a day.

There have been violent clashes at the crossing in the past week with a crowd of chanting migrants trying to force their way through the border fence using a metal sign post as a battering ram.

Macedonia today imposed further restrictions only allowing Syrians from parts of the country they consider to be at war to enter.

It means people from cities such as Aleppo could cross, but those from the capital of Damascus would be stopped.

At an emergency summit tomorrow in Brussels, aimed at saving the EU’s passport-free travel zone, Schengen, all 28 leaders, including David Cameron, will sign up to a plan to stop migrants arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey being ‘waved through’ the continent.

Leaked draft conclusions for the meeting seen by the Mail show that they will agree that ‘irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route are coming to an end . . . this route is now closed’.

They will also pledge to ‘provide further assistance to Greece in managing the external borders, including those with Macedonia and Albania’.

The EU’s border agency Frontex will ask for countries to supply more guards and Europol will send officers to screen arrivals on the Greek islands.

The leaders, who will be joined by Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu for part of the meeting, will also sign off a plan agreed on Friday for Turkey to take back all economic migrants that cross the Aegean Sea.

According to the draft conclusions, the leaders will say they ‘stand by Greece in this difficult moment and will do their utmost to help manage the situation that has arisen’.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said his country would demand an immediate relocation of some of the 30,000 migrants stranded there and will call for sanctions for countries inside the Schengen Zone that refuse.

With thousands more arriving from Turkey every day, the numbers could swell by 100,000 by the end of this month, EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos projected on Saturday.

Mr Tsipras said that in facing a potential flow of millions of migrants, the EU is feeling the consequences of ‘unreasonable . . . imperialistic interventions’ in the Middle East that have destroyed organised states, an apparent reference to Iraq and Syria.

He accused Austria and the Balkan countries of ‘ruining Europe’ by slowing the flow of migrants heading north from Greece.

‘Europe is in a nervous crisis,’ Mr Tsipras told his left-wing Syriza party’s central committee. ‘Will a Europe of fear and racism overtake a Europe of solidarity?’

He said central European countries with declining populations and low unemployment could benefit in the long term by taking in millions of refugees, but said austerity policies have fed a far-right ‘monster’ opposing the inflows.

‘Europe today is crushed amidst austerity and closed borders. It keeps its border open to austerity but closed for people fleeing war,’ he said. ‘Countries, with Austria in the front, want to impose the logic of fortress Europe.’

Hitting back at criticism by eastern European states over Greece’s failure to stem migrant flows, Mr Tsipras questioned the wisdom of admitting these countries into the EU a decade ago.