Tucked between Greece and the rest of Eastern Europe, Macedonia sees the majority of migrant foot traffic. Controversy and conflict with Greece have plagued Macedonia for generations. This well-known history between the two countries has continually contributed to the refugee crisis. These 10 facts about refugees in Macedonia show that the country is one of the largest players in Europe in terms of refugee numbers and routes.
10 Facts About Refugees in Macedonia
- In 2016, the border between Greece and Macedonia was closed off, effectively closing the major Balkan route for many refugees.
- Macedonia is a country vulnerable to severe floods and landslides, exacerbating the problem of an increased population in a small country. The EU Humanitarian budget has consistently contributed funds to Macedonia for a combination of the increased number of refugees and also because of the high rates of natural disasters.
- With the closing of the border between Greece and Macedonia, the influx of refugees decreased from 815,000 refugees in 2015 to only 89,197 in 2016.
- The European Commission has allocated 4.4 million euros to the country of Macedonia since the start of the refugee crisis. This allowed refugees to have access to basic necessities such as food and clothing.
- A third of refugees in Macedonia are children. UNICEF has begun to set up child-friendly spaces where they are supplied with warm food and clothing.
- The 2016 closing of the Macedonia-Greece border left many migrants stranded in transit centers in Northern Macedonia, where living conditions were less than ideal. This changed the minds of many refugees, as traveling further North seemed impossible. Rather than continuing further into the EU, many migrants instead settled in Serbia or Hungary, in search of asylum.
- Greece has continually blocked Macedonian hopes of joining the EU. This conflict not only made the refugee crisis worse but contributed to the closing of the Greece-Macedonia border.
- The closure of the Greece-Macedonia border left around 13,000 refugees stranded at the border. To intensify the closing of the Greece-Macedonia border, Serbia closed its border with Macedonia the same year.
- The closure of many Balkan borders left thousands stranded. The Vinojug refugee center in Southern Macedonia has turned from a temporary transit center into a permanent home for hundreds of refugees. With the help of organizations such as UN Women, the once-temporary camp is turning into a home.
- Airbnb began a program designed for individuals all over the world to house refugees and migrants. Although the program is in the early stages, it has already been tested in Macedonia to house relief workers.
These facts about refugees in Macedonia showcase how the situation remains dire. Although the state of the refugee crisis in Macedonia seems to be looking up, there is still much to be done. With the number of refugees declining, there is hope for the future.
– Sophie Casimes