Closing of borders in Europe is the wrong way to go

The Danish Refugee Council warns against the closing of European national borders, which takes place in many places in Europe due to the current influx of refugees. It can result in large refugee camps in the countries at Europe’s outposts and could eventually force people to stay inside countries as Syria and Iraq. The latest example of the control of borders is that Afghans are now being rejected at the border between the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Greece.

Many places in Europe, borders are being closed and various measures are being introduced for the purpose of keeping potential asylum seekers out. Afghans coming from Greece are now being rejected at the Macedonian border and are thus forced back to Greece just a few days after they have fought for their life on the trip across the Mediterranean. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) calls on the European countries to resist the introduction of border controls and instead stand together to find joint solutions to the current situation.

"Border closures are just the wrong medicine in the present situation. We have to stand together in Europe to find common solutions. When FYROM closes its border for the Afghans, it is a big problem for these vulnerable people and yet another symptom of what we see happening many places in Europe. People have the right to get their asylum case processed - and not being rejected based on their nationality. It is not borders that need protection - it is the refugees," says Ann Mary Olsen, International Director at the Danish Refugee Council.

More than a million people have crossed the Mediterranean in order to reach Europe last year, and the figure has already passed 100,000 in 2016. The Afghans make up 27 percent of the people arriving over the Mediterranean, and the latest figures from Eurostat show that 70 percent of the Afghans most probably will be recognized as refugees in Europe.

"Afghans are the second largest group coming over the Mediterranean. We at the Danish Refugee Council know from our work in Afghanistan that 2015 was a year in which there was a rapidly increasing number of internally displaced as a result of local conflicts. The number of killed and wounded civilians in Afghanistan last year was the highest since 2009. I visited Lesvos in Greece last week and have met some of these vulnerable people that now cannot continue their search for safety," says Ann Mary Olsen.

In recent months a number of countries, which lie on the route from the outer borders of Europe to the rest of the continent have built fences or introduced border controls which aims to reject a certain number of nationalities.

"It is a terrible domino effect we witness in Europe, which initially will put an unreasonable burden on Greece, solely because they are located on the border of Europe. It is therefore a risk that large refugee camps will develop in these countries, as the people seeking protection are unable to travel beyond Greece and at the same time cannot return to their home country. And in the end we risk borders closing to the countries in conflict; Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. We risk that people have to stay inside these countries where bombs are falling, where fighting is going on every day and where militant groups control large areas. This cannot be solved by closing borders. We need to stand together to ensure a dignified treatment and protection of refugees in Europe," says Ann Mary Olsen.

Danish Refugee Council is a leading humanitarian organization working in 40 hotspots worldwide and annually assists more than 2.5 million refugees and displaced persons. Danish Refugee Council increased its work in Europe in 2015 as a result of the increasing influx of refugees, and the organization is now present in Serbia, Macedonia and Greece - in addition to work in Denmark.