Macedonia is reportedly moving to bar migrants from crossing its borders. The country is expected to implement the ban between Feb. 23 and Mar. 13, in anticipation of a massive surge of migrants into the Balkans region.
Macedonia is heightening border security and employing police and military to supplement a border fence in deterring immigrants, reports Balkan Analysis. The Balkan state is reportedly set to adopt the new security measures after diplomatic discussions with neighboring states.
The Austrian government told Macedonia to prepare to “completely stop” migration into its borders on Feb. 12, reports Reuters. Austria added that it would implement a similar halt in the coming months.
“Macedonia must be ready to completely stop the entry of migrants on its borders,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.
“We know this will be a hard task and today we agree that Austria will lend its support, not only in terms of personnel such as police and army but with equipment too.”
Austria is attempting to reduce the number of migrants accepted into its borders, capping migrants at 37,500 for 2016, according to Turkish Weekly. Austria accepted 90,000 immigrants in 2015, and is concerned about refugees making their way from Macedonia to Austria.
More than 1 million migrants reached Europe in 2015, and more than 80,000 have immigrated in 2016.
Macedonia has already constructed two walls of fencing and razor wire along its border with Greece, an epicenter for migrant crossings. Many of the migrants who have crossed into Macedonia are Syrian refugees attempting to reach western Europe.
While Macedonia’s tough migration policy has been generally accepted by Balkan countries, it is facing opposition from Germany and Greece, which have had a more liberal stance on refugee migration.
Macedonia’s hard-line migration stance is characteristic of its generally conservative nature.
The country has a conservative, family-oriented culture and national security is generally a top concern of its citizens. Since Macedonia faced an attempted coup and thwarted terrorist attack in 2015, the country has been hesitant to compromise its security.