Macedonia Govt: Opposition ‘Inciting Panic’ About Migrants

Macedonia's former ruling party has been slammed for spreading alarm and false information about the government's draft strategy for dealing with refugees and migrants.
Refugees and migrants in Macedonia. Archive photo: BIRN

Macedonia’s Social Policy Ministry has denounced as lies claims by the opposition right-wing VMRO DPNNE party that the country is considering building permanent housing and issuing citizenship to migrants from the war-torn Middle-Eastern countries who are traversing its territory.

The VMRO DPMNE on Tuesday asked parliament to dismiss Social Policy Minister Mila Carovska, accusing her of planning to allow migrants to stay in the country permanently as part of the draft Strategy for Integration of Refugees and Foreign Citizens 2017-2027.

“Billions of euros will be spent in the next ten years on accommodation, the construction of buildings and settlements for migrants in several Macedonian municipalities,” VMRO DPMNE MP Vlatko Gjorcev alleged on Tuesday.

The ministry however defied the VMRO DPMNE party, which was in power from 2006 until this May, to show evidence of its claims.

“The draft strategy is a continuation of the same strategy for the period 2009-2015, which was approved by the former VMRO DPMNE-led government. The document is non-obligatory and those who have signed this strategy in the past know this fact,” the ministry said.

“We once again condemn the spreading of disinformation and the intentional spreading of fear and xenophobia among citizens,” it added.

During the refugee crisis in 2015, about a million refugees crossed Macedonia and then Serbia on their way to EU countries.

Some 200 people however remain stranded in Macedonia, around 130 in the migrant camp in Gevgelija and 80 in Tabanovce, on the northern border with Serbia.

The new draft strategy is to provide guidelines for the authorities should a new wave of migrants head towards the country on their way to EU.

The draft envisages providing shelter, food, medical assistance and some temporary accommodation for refugees according to UN standards, but does not envisage building entire settlements, as the opposition claimed.

Despite this, municipal authorities from the towns of Bitola, Prilep and Dojran, which are run by the VMRO DPMNE, have already condemned the government’s alleged plan to situate entire settlements on their territories.

Media outlets and NGOs seen as close to VMRO DPMNE have also helped to spread disinformation.

Netpress news portal on Monday reported an opinion poll conducted by the right-wing NGO Pavel Satev which claimed that some 90 per cent of the respondents do not support the government’s draft strategy and that some 78 per cent are against the building of new refugee camps.

Since March-April 2016, when several countries on the so-called Balkan refugee and migrant route, including Macedonia, closed their borders to migrants, the country primarily faces problems with attempted illegal crossings.

According to the head of the Macedonian Intelligence Agency, Zoran Ivanov, some 8,000 people have crossed Macedonia with false documents during the past two years.