Slovenia moves to close borders, refugee crisis worsens
Slovenia introduced new border restrictions for migrants as part of efforts to close the Balkans route from Greece to Western Europe. Only migrants who plan to seek asylum or those with clear humanitarian needs will be allowed entry under the new rules. In reaction, Serbia said it would close its borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria to those without valid documents.
Europe's influx of migrants is attributed to wars and crises that has forced millions of people from their homes in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere. Though there have been migrants coming to Europe from various countries facing conflicts, the 'Arab Spring' in countries like Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc has been the single largest spark of the ongoing refugee crisis.
The biggest driver of the migrant crisis by far is Syria. Four million people, nearly a fifth of Syria's population, has fled the country since the war began in 2011.
While many European countries have been resistant to let in the migrants, Germany and Austria proved to be a rare exception welcoming refugees with open arms. German government said that it will accept 8,00,000 applications for asylum from refugees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande called for a burden-sharing system to distribute the swelling numbers of migrants across the European Union.
Over 1000 men sexually assaulted hundreds of women revelers outside the Cologne railway station during new year's eve celebrations in the German city. Police recorded 516 cases of theft, sexual assault and 2 cases of rape. Victims and eyewitnesses described the perpetrators to be Arab or North African in origin. Right wing activists in Germany demanded Angel Merkel's resignation over her 'failed' refugee policies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Europe has lost control over the ongoing refugee crisis, at a meeting with senior business leaders in Berlin. Her comments come in the backdrop of mass sexual assaults on German citizens, allegedly by refugees and people of Arab or North African descent. Merkel stressed on the need for better control and more effective legislation for refugees entering Europe.
In a bid to assuage concerns of right wing protesters in the country, Germany has begun turning away hundreds of asylum seekers from its border with Austria. Angela Merkel's government also decided to deport asylum seekers who have broken laws, in the wake of the New Year's Eve sex attacks in Cologne. According to Austrian officials, Germany is turning away 200+ refugees a day.
After an EU interior ministers meeting in Amsterdam, EU nations are contemplating an extension of national border controls within the Schengen area in response to the immigration crisis. The governments were to ask the European commission for permission to extend and prolong the border controls beyond May. After the meeting, Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said, "Schengen is on the brink of collapse."
Swedish authorities are planning to expel over 80,000 asylum seekers who failed to clear the application process for asylum in Sweden. Approximately 163,000 migrants applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, the highest per-capita number in Europe. Approximately 58,800 asylum cases were processed in 2015 out of which only 55% were accepted. The government said they would use chartered aircraft to relocate the refugees.
Austria and nine Balkan states agreed on several measures to choke off the flow of refugees from Greece. Among the measures was an agreement to grant entry to the 10 countries only to those "in proven need of protection," which would limit passage to Iraqis and Syrians. Greece has accused Austria of violating EU norms with unilateral action and recalled its diplomats from Austria.