Greece (MNN) — Circumstances may be changing for migrants trying to make their way to Europe through Greece, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) erects a fence between the two countries.
“The fence started a couple months ago,” says AMG International president and CEO Tasos Ioannidis. “The fence keeps growing every day. It is now a double fence.”
More than 83,000 refugees arrived in Europe since the beginning of the year, and 77,303 came from Turkey through Greece, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
AMG helps provide the refugees with supplies for their journey and medical care for those who are injured or sick.
Though refugees from areas affected by war will still be allowed through FYROM, others will be turned back. About 44% of the refugees in January were from Syria, 27% from Afghanistan and 17% from Iraq, according to IOM. All of those migrants will be allowed through Greece. It is the migrants from countries not approved as war zones who will be turned away.
The process may slow as Macedonia’s border security tightens. Macedonia has said it will only keep the Southern border open if the countries to the North continue to allow migrants into their countries. FYROM does not want them staying there. Everyone is trying to shift the growing burden of the refugees onto someone else, Ioannidis explains.
Multiple developments in Europe back up Ioannidis, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Countries besides Macedonia are restricting border crossings, and adjacent countries are trying to appear less hospitable to migrants than their neighbors.
Greece already looked inhospitable, with an EU court declaring Greece needed to clean up its refugee services and mind its borders, or face sanctions.
“Greece agreed to allow NATO to patrol the borders with Turkey,” says Ioannidis. “They are trying to prevent refugees from coming in.”
The court set conditions for refugees five years ago after investigations revealed poor living conditions.
“What is supposed to happen is: once refugees come to Greece, they are supposed to go to these hot spots where they will be registered, processed, and vetted,” Ioannidis says. “The ones who are truly refugees of the war will be accepted into the country.”
That process is bound to exclude refugees who have fled their countries for legitimate reasons. But for AMG staff, the politics are secondary to helping the migrants.
Ioannidis said AMG is waiting at hot spots and border crossings in order to provide supplies and medical care for those who need it.
At St. Lukes Hospital, staff regularly sees refugees who are suffering, lonely, and in need of help. These are people who are desperate, but they are seeing the love of Jesus through the work done here. Ioannidis says, “We pray we can continue it as long as they keep coming.”