EU 'concerned' about possible humanitarian crisis on Balkan migrant route

Migrants carry Red Cross food packages at the border between Macedonia and Greece.
Migrants carry Red Cross food packages at the border between Macedonia and Greece.PHOTO: EPA

BRUSSELS (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - The EU said on Tuesday (Feb 23) it was concerned about the situation on the route migrants are taking through the west Balkans and is making plans to deal with a possible humanitarian crisis.

"We are concerned about the developments along the Balkan route and the humanitarian crisis that might unfold in certain countries especially in Greece," EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Dutch migration minister Klaas Dijkhoff, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement.

The statement comes ahead of a conference in Vienna on Wednesday of countries along the Balkan route refugees and migrants are taking to northern Europe, but which has already caused controversy as Greece has not been invited.

The crisis ratcheted up at the weekend after Macedonia - which is not part of the 28-nation European Union but will be at the Vienna meeting - closed its border to Afghans because countries further up the route were turning back groups from that country.

On Tuesday, Greece began sending hundreds of Afghans from its clogged northern border with Macedonia back to Athens.

Greece is the main arrival point for the huge flow of people fleeing war and poverty who are arriving in Europe - mainly via Turkey - in the worst crisis of its kind to face Europe for more than half a century.

"We call on all countries and actors along the route to prepare the necessary contingency planning to be able to address humanitarian needs, including reception capacities," Avrampolous and Dijkhoff said in the statement.

"In parallel, the Commission is co-ordinating a contingency planning effort, to offer support in case of a humanitarian crisis both outside and within the EU, as well as to further coordinate border management."