Macedonia > Overview
last update: July 2016
Macedonia is one of the main transit-countries for refugees and migrants on the way to EU-countries. Macedonia is not part of the Dublin III (follow-up of Dublin II, since January 15th 2014) agreement. This means that you can ask for asylum or have your fingerprints taken in Macedonia without problems to ask asylum in a Dublin country later on (no danger of a Dublin-deportation).
After the EU-Turkey deal and the closure of the balkanroute, the 72-hour asylum law in Macedonia was abolished. Macedonia currently has the old asylum law, in other words, you can still seek asylum in the country but you do not have 72 hours to decide whether you want to go through with it, that is, whether that is your final decision. In practice, new arrivals are directly pushed back to the country where they came from and not allowed to seek asylum. After the EU-Turkey deal, Macedonia introduced a new law, according to which it can legally return people to all neighbouring countries of Macedonia (EU, NATO and CEFTA countries), while sticking to the re-admission program, that is, the given neighbouring country should accept the returnee.
In other words, crossing is basically “illegal” for all nationalities (unless the people seek asylum in Macedonia but it sometimes happens that they are denied this right). That being said, all transport is illegal for new arrivals, including taxi, bus, trains etc. There are still people who manage to cross on foot or with smugglers, but crossing this way is very dangerous, as there is increased police presence from Macedonia and various EU countries. If a group is caught with a smuggler, only a few people from the group are usually taken to the closed centre Gazi Baba in Skopje, where normally they are held for a few days as witnesses in the trial against the smuggler. Often, if the group is not with a smuggler and they get caught, they are being questioned in the camp in Gevgelija and then deported after a few hours.
After the border closures, many people got stuck in Macedonia in the transit camps in Gevgelija and Tabanovce (initially over 1500 people). Currently, there are approximately 60 people in the open transit centre of Tabanovce and around 130 in the closed transit centre of Gevgelija (July, but the numbers fluctuate). The conditions in these 2 transit centres are relatively good, with bathrooms (separate for men and women and a special one for babies), hot water, relatively good food, stable electricity, IKEA containers for sleeping with air conditioners (around 4 people per container), stable electricity and wifi etc. However, the main issue is that the transit camp of Gevgelija remains closed and people are unable to exit it. On extremely rare occasions new arrivals are allowed to stay in the transit camp of Gevgelija, but very, very rarely and only if there is a very vulnerable case, such as a pregnant woman with critical pregnancy etc. As of recently, the vast majority of asylum seekers are waiting in the camp in Gevgelija to have their asylum claims processed and are not taken to Vizbegovo.
Extremely vulnerable cases, especially unaccompanied minors, are sometimes allowed to go to a so-called “safe house” for vulnerable asylum seekers in Skopje (there is only one). This institution is run by the government and the Jesuit Council.