Slovenia said on Tuesday it would place new border restrictions on the entry of migrants, effectively blocking the way of those trying to reach western Europe through the Balkans.
Serbia and Croatia joined Slovenia in saying they would require valid visas at their borders as of midnight Tuesday, according to wire service reports. The restrictions are intended to close the Balkan route, leaving migrants no way to reach their intended destinations, the BBC reports.
Only migrants who plan to seek asylum in the Balkan countries and will not continue on to somewhere else in Europe, or those with clear humanitarian needs will be allowed to enter, according to the BBC. It adds:
"The future of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone is already in doubt.
"Eight of its members, including Austria, Hungary and Slovakia, have tightened border controls, leaving thousands of migrants stranded in Greece.
"Europe is facing its biggest refugee crisis since World War Two. Last year, more than a million people entered the EU illegally by boat. Most of them were Syrian, fleeing the country's civil war."
As the Two-Way reported yesterday, European Union and Turkish leaders were in talks about how to best address the flow of migrants. Reporting from the Greek-Macedonian border, Joanna Kakissis said on Morning Edition Monday:
"For months, refugees who landed in Greece were waved through to northern Europe by the Balkan countries of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, as well as Austria.
"But last month, Austria put new restrictions on who could enter, prompting border closures throughout the so-called Balkan route."
Those closures, she says, are creating a bottleneck of thousands of migrants waiting at Greece's border with Macedonia. In total, some 30,000 asylum seekers are gathered in Greece.
As news of Slovenia's border closure spread through a refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian border Tuesday, migrants realized their hopes of traveling through the Balkans to reach Europe had been dashed. "One woman broke down, crying and screaming as she held her baby in her arms while a man tried to calm and comfort her," the AP reports.
Other vowed patience.
"I will just wait," said Aslan al Katib, a 21-year-old Syrian engineering student from Damascus who hopes to reach Germany. "We want to continue our journey."
"It's a bad situation. What are we now to do? What are we waiting for?" al Katib said according to the news service. "I work hard. Just give me security."