The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia

Refugee population

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is one of the transit countries for refugees heading to the EU. Recently the number of arrivals increased dramatically and reached 4,000-5,000 people per day, putting severe pressure on the existing receiving capacities of the country. According to information provided by the Red Cross Society in Macedonia, during July and August 2015 alone over 62,500 refugees passed through the country. According to UNICEF, more than 64,000 people have been registered at the reception centre in Gevgelija on the border with Greece. The large majority of refugees are Syrians (81%), Afghans (5%), Iraqis (5%) and Pakistanis (3%). Other asylum seekers come from Somalia, Palestine, Congo and Cameroon. Though the reported number of registered refugees varies across different sources of information, the real figures are much higher; the number of registered constitutes approximately half of the total number of people transiting through the country.

Refugee Status

The FYROM had signed and ratified the 1951 and 1959 Geneva Convention, and it had acceded to the 1967 Protocol. Thanks to the recent asylum law amendment on 18 June, 2015 the refugees had the opportunity to apply for asylum at the border of FYROM, receiving a document authorizing them to travel legally to Skopje and have their asylum claims registered within 72 hours. As a result 53,571 people have registered their intention to seek asylum in the country during the period from 19 June to 1 September. Another 10,000 were registered during the first week of September 2015.

On 9 September 2015, the European Commission issued a proposal for an EU regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin and amending the Directive 2013/32/EU. The proposal also includes the FYROM.

Government’s approach

The FYROM Ministry of the Interior puts efforts to improve the reception conditions. Despite enhancing its registration system, the growing number of refugees arriving from Greece makes these measures still insufficient to meet the needs. With the financial support of the UNHCR 12 new data entry clerks from the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association are involved in the reception process. On 19 August the Government of the FYROM closed its border due to the increasing number of arrivals. Several thousand individuals had to wait on the Greek side for 3 days until the border was reopened on 22 August. People arrive exhausted and in need of food, water, medical services and shelter. They frequently have to stay outside without minimal food and sanitation conditions. The situation is due to worsening weather conditions. As the Macedonian government have not established any temporary accommodation centre in the border area, many refugees had to sleep in the open under the rain.

The Government has asked for international support in the area of reception, asylum and migration management.

Institutional actors

The Crisis Management Team was established by the Government to coordinate the actions in response to the refugee crisis. Its initial mandate has a duration of 30 days with the possibility of extension depending on the situation. The Crisis Management team is in charge of coordinating the refugee crisis response of the state bodies such as the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

There are several other organizations working with state bodies: Help the Migrants in Macedonia, HERA, IOM, La Strada Open Gate, Legis, MYLA, Nun, Red Cross, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, and WHO.

The UNHCR is the main institution that funds and coordinates the humanitarian actions in the region. In FYROM it works in close collaboration with the Red Cross to distribute food, water and blankets as well as maintain the health and hygiene to those waiting at the border. Together with several partners and NGOs (such as the Nun, Legis and Help the Migrants) as well with the support of individuals it provides daily food packages and other items to the refugees.

The UNHCR and its partners such as the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association offer free, legal consultation and assistance in