THESSALONIKI, GREECE: A Pakistani man was stabbed to death on the Greek-Macedonian border on Monday as the European Commission pledged to increase security at a key point for migrants on their route from Greece to northern Europe.
The incident occurred near no-man’s-land on the border between Greece and Macedonia, where thousands of migrants of different nationalities gather daily, hoping to secure passage to other destinations in Europe.
Two other Pakistanis were hurt in the early morning attack allegedly carried out by Afghans, local police said.
Both survivors were hospitalised but one is in critical condition, they said.
No arrests have been made.
Greek media reported that the assailants stole 400 euros ($435) and a cellphone.
In Brussels, European Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said additional security was needed in the area, amid fears that jihadists posing as migrants could be filtering through.
The issue had already been raised in October between the leaders of countries along the Western Balkans migration route.
“The aim expressed at the Western Balkan leaders summit is to have a controlled flow and to slow down and control the movement of people,” Bertaud told reporters.
And because the current mandate of EU border agency Frontex does not allow it to operate in a non-EU country, the gap is filled through bilateral agreements between Macedonia and other EU members, Bertaud said.
“Fifty-seven officers from other member states are already operating on the Macedonian side of the border but it becomes clear from the need assessment we carried out that more will be needed,” she added.
EU interior ministers were meeting in Amsterdam under the Dutch presidency of the bloc on Monday to discuss how to tackle the migrant crisis and save the Schengen passport-free zone from collapse.
Members of the so-called Western Balkans group — including Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Greece — met on the side-lines of the conference “to take stock of the situation,” Bertaud said.
Countries along the Balkan route last year began restricting entry only to refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
And Macedonia last week began to intermittently close its border with Greece, only allowing passage to refugees wishing to go to Germany or Austria.
Macedonia on Monday said it wanted to cooperate with Brussels but its hand was forced by restrictions imposed by EU nations further north.
Austria earlier this month signalled that it would follow neighbouring Germany’s lead and begin turning back any new arrivals seeking to claim asylum in Scandinavia, after Sweden and Denmark tightened their borders.
“Macedonia has coordinated its steps with the EU and will… follow (Brussels’) decisions,” said a statement from Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki.
“We have no intention to close the border, but at the time when northern EU countries are tightening measures, we will do whatever necessary at (Macedonia’s) southern border to contribute to a solution to the refugee crisis where it is needed,” Poposki said.
More than one million migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2015, nearly half of them Syrians, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.