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Thread: Balkan countries on refugee route adopt more pragmatic tactics

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    Senior Member Alially's Avatar
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    Default Balkan countries on refugee route adopt more pragmatic tactics

    When the Halawis, a family of Syrian haberdashers, wanted to get from Greece to Macedonia on Wednesday, they took a direct coach from Athens to the last hotel before the border. At the border itself, they joined group number 106, a line of 50 fellow Syrians waiting patiently to cross into Macedonia. Group 105 was already over the other side.

    “There is a system,” 28-year-old Assad Halawi nodded approvingly, as he and his sister waited in line. In his arms he held Amr, his one-year-old nephew. Amr’s parents could not afford the trip from Syria, where the civil war has destroyed the family’s home in Aleppo, and two of their shops. So Halawi has carried him from Aleppo, and will soon take him into Macedonia.
    Once there, the Halawis will swiftly receive transit papers at a camp that was built recently for this specific purpose. Before long, they’ll amble over to a new, makeshift station assembled in recent weeks solely for refugee use. By the evening a special train will have taken them straight to the Serbian border.

    “The wait is long, and there is no free water,” says Halawi, as he hugs Amr. “But the police are gentle, and 50 people just go to the police, get a number, and then walk through. It is organised.”

    It is also the latest example of an increased pragmatism from the governments of the Balkan countries that line the refugee route from Turkey to the European Union.

    When Syrians came this way a month or two ago, Greece and Macedonia both pretended that their passage could be prevented or ignored. Back then, refugees usually had to walk 40 miles to the border. Once there, the Macedonians twice tried to stop people entering, blocking the way with a line of policemen and troops, sparking terror and pandemonium. When they relented, the sudden flow of refugees swamped the nearby town of Gevgelija, as hundreds queued outside the police station for papers, and scrambled to squeeze into carriages at the town’s small train station.

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