Ban urges countries along Balkan route into Western Europe to keep borders open

26 February 2016

Concerned with the increasing number of border restrictions along the Balkan land route, including in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the countries to keep their borders open “in a spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity.”

“Such border restrictions are not in line with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol because individual determination of refugee status and assessment of individual protection needs are not made possible,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban's spokesperson.

The Secretary-General noted that the number of asylum seekers entering Greece from Turkey continues unabated, and that the border closures are creating a difficult situation in Greece. Meanwhile, Turkey is already hosting in excess of 2.6 million refugees and asylum seekers.

“[Mr. Ban] is fully aware of the pressures felt by many European countries. However, he calls on all countries to keep their borders open, and to act in a spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity, including through expanding legal pathways to access asylum,” said the statement.

The UN chief recalled that the vast majority of refugees are hosted by developing countries and stressed the need for responsibility sharing at the global level, which, he noted will be one of the key issues at the UN General Assembly's Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants, to be held on 19 September in New York.

The Secretary-General's call comes after a similar expression of concern voiced yesterday by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who urged the five countries that adopted the measures to “carefully recalibrate” the approach of their police forces, and emphasized that the measures are exacerbating “the chaos and misery all down the line,” and especially in Greece, which is already overwhelmed.

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