Up to 3,000 refugees, migrants expected a day in Macedonia – UNHCR

UN Refugee Agency predicts the number of migrants crossing the border between Greece and Macedonia to remain at 3,000 per day.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (AUGUST 25, 2015) (REUTERS) – The number of refugees crossing the border between Greece and Macedonia is expected to continue at a rate of around 3,000 people per day, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We are anticipating that this influx and this route is going to continue at a rate of up to 3,000 people per day,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news conference in Geneva.

Nearly 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, including nearly 181,500 in Greece and 108,500 in Italy, according to the UNHCR.

The Balkans is in the grips of an unprecedented surge in migration fuelled by war in Syria and instability across the Middle East.

A record 50,000 migrants, many of them Syrians, reached Greek shores by boat from Turkey in July.

Greece, embroiled in a debilitating economic crisis, is ferrying them from overwhelmed islands to the mainland, from where they head north to Macedonia and points beyond.

Macedonia sealed its border to them last week, but gave up in the face of huge and determined crowds. Macedonia and Serbia are now moving them on as fast as they can.

Fleming said that many of the migrants are in need of humanitarian and medical assistance, especially the most vulnerable, such as the sick, pregnant women and elderly people.

“It’s vital that these people are treated humanely, also that essential assistance is provided, not just by responding to their basic needs but respecting also their dignity, their human rights as asylum seekers and migrants,” said Fleming.

She appealed to governments in the region to make sure that they handle the situation with sensitivity and abide by their international obligations.

“While understanding legitimate concerns facing countries in the region – obviously this is an unexpected large number of people – we do appeal to the governments involved to implement border management measures with humanity and also in accordance with international obligations.”

UNHCR says that all European countries and the EU must act together to help those countries whose capacities are already overstretched with an influx of migrants and refugees, such as Greece, Macedonia and Serbia.

The agency says there should be capacity support, and support for equitable redistribution of refugees and asylum seekers across the EU.