GENEVA, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 23rd Sep, 2016 ) :- The UN rights chief on Friday voiced deep concern over Macedonia's "systematic policy" of detaining and expelling migrants, criticising especially the widespread detention of migrant children. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that when his staff visited Macedonia earlier this month they had found 180 migrants -- around 80 of them children -- "who have been living in limbo since March in two transit centres".
"This is simply unacceptable, in particular when it comes to children," he insisted in a statement. Macedonia lies on the so-called Balkan route crossed by hundreds of thousands of migrants from the middle East, Asia and Africa since last summer on their way to western Europe. Although the route was effectively shut down in March, migrants have continued to cross the region in smaller numbers, often with the help of smugglers. Zeid pointed out that the 180 migrants stuck at the Tabanovce centre, near the border with Serbia in the north, and the Gevgelija centre near the Greek border, had entered Macedonia before the country closed its borders on March 8.
UN rights office spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told AFP that one of the centres was "essentially a detention centre," decrying that the migrants were "in a high-stress situation and the children cannot go to school." She warned that a recent amendment to Macedonia's asylum law meant that people who enter the country illegally have little chance of being allowed to stay. Out of the some 600 asylum requests filed in Macedonia since 2015, only five people have been granted refugee status, according to the UN.
Zeid called for "urgent measures" to help the stranded migrants return to a normal life, and especially ensuring that children can pursue their educations. Zeid also expressed alarm at reports that Macedonia was pushing migrants back into neighbouring countries, as well as carrying out "collective and arbitrary expulsions." "I urge the government to put an end to these practices, which are in breach of international law," he said. Zeid warned that the border closings throughout the region had boosted the presence of "abusive smuggling and trafficking industries, leaving migrants -- especially women and children -- in a deplorably vulnerable situation."