EU to declare ‘Balkans route closed’ to refugees at Brussels summit
Leaders of the European Union have gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels, where they are expected to declare a decision to seal the Balkans route used by many refugees to reach Europe.
According to an EU diplomat, the 28-member bloc’s leaders would use the summit to announce that they will “close the Balkans route in the coming days,” ending the “wave-through approach” to refugees trying to enter Europe.
Another diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the draft declaration states that “irregular flows of refugees along the western Balkans route are coming to an end.”
The draft also says the bloc will “stand by Greece in this difficult moment and will do its utmost to help manage the situation.”
“This is a collective EU responsibility requiring fast and efficient mobilization,” it reads.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will also attend the summit scheduled to be held later on Monday.
The EU leaders are expected to ask Davutoglu to accept “large-scale” deportations of refugees from Greece, which is the main entry point to Europe.
The EU has reportedly offered Ankara three billion euros (USD 3.3 billion) in return for its attempts to stem the flow of refugees arriving in the continent via Turkey.
An estimated 13,000 people are currently living in temporary shelters designed to house only 2,000 or out in the open on the Greek-Macedonian border.
Back in October, the EU vowed to relocate 160,000 refugees, mainly from Greece and Italy, to other European countries. The plan, however, was met with strong opposition from some members, including Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
According to a recent report by the European Commission bureau of statistics, Eurostat, some 1,255,600 refugees reached Europe in 2015, with more than a third of them having gone to Germany. People from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan topped the Eurostat’s list of refugees.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of refugees from their home countries.