Macedonia government: Opposition party spreading rumors, panic on migrants

Migrants at the border of Macedonia | Youtube Snapshot

Macedonia's former ruling party has been criticized for increasing alarm and false information about the government's draft strategy for dealing with refugees and migrants.

According to sources, Macedonia's Social Policy Ministry has denounced as lies the claims that were made 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 accused Social Policy Minister Mila Carovska 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 and asked the parliament to dismiss her.

"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 claimed on Tuesday.

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

"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 noted, adding "We once again condemn the spreading of disinformation and the intentional spreading of fear and xenophobia among citizens.”

During the refugee crisis in 2015, and as a million refugees crossed Macedonia and then Serbia on their way to EU countries, some 200 people remain stranded in Macedonia, around 130 in the migrant camp in Gevgelija and 80 in Tabanovce. 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.

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, with around 8,000 people crossing Macedonia with false documents during 2016-2017.