Macedonia suspends Afghan migrant crossings
Thousands of Afghan asylum seekers were left stranded on Greece's northern border after Macedonia stopped allowing Afghans in. The move followed similar decisions by other governments to restrict Afghans from entering their countries. Tensions rose as Afghans blocked a railway line between Greece and Macedonia in protest. Meanwhile, emergency shelters were being arranged by Greece for the stranded migrants.
Afghans comprised the second largest group of asylum seekers, after the Syrians, in Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War 2. The reason behind their migration in large numbers is the deteriorating security condition in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international security forces and the rise of Taliban in many parts. Most refugees make the journey by boat, through the Balkan corridor.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that Afghans seeking asylum in Europe grew three-fold in 2015 from the number in 2014.
The European Union perceives the Afghan migration to be largely motivated by economic concerns, unlike migration from war-afflicted regions like Syria and Iran. European countries argue that since they have provided military and monetary help to Afghanistan, the huge number of refugees from the country is not warranted. Immense pressure due to the unprecedented influx of Syrian refugees is another contributing factor.
Only a quarter of Afghan refugees were granted recognition by Germany. A majority of the migrants usually end up being deported back. Germany even resorted to running a campaign in Afghanistan to debunk the 'economic opportunities' that awaited migrants in the country, in order to dissuade Afghans from attempting migration to Germany. Human Rights Watch criticized the campaign as being 'extremely stupid'.
On February 19, Serbia announced that it would accept migrants only from Syria and Iran, after signing a joint agreement with Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Macedonia for imposing tighter restrictions on allowing passage to refugees and migrants. Croatia and Slovenia implemented similar restrictions on their borders. Austria declared that the numbers of refugees granted asylum would be limited to 1.5% of Austria's population.