Robert Atanasovski / AFP / Getty Images

Macedonia mulls border fence as Central Europe FMs meet over refugees

Thousands fleeing war in Middle East continue to enter Macedonia from Greece on way to more prosperous Western Europe

Macedonia is contemplating following Hungary in building a border fence to stem the number of refugees entering the country on their way to Western Europe.

Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki spoke of the barrier proposal Friday as his counterparts from four European nations prepared to meet in Prague to discuss the ongoing crisis, which has created a rift between EU members in the east and the more prosperous west.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have all voiced objections to compulsory quotas proposed by the EU Commission to resettle 160,000 asylum seekers across 22 member states. Many are fleeing war in Syria and are entering Europe via Italy and Greece. On Thursday thousands of refugees battled torrential rains as they crossed Greece’s northern border with Macedonia. Police formed a human fence and at times resorted to using batons or shields to push back people seeking to cross.

In an interview with Hungarian business weekly Figyelo, Poposki suggested a more permanent solution was being mulled. "We too will need some kind of physical defense to reduce illegal border crossing ... either soldiers or a fence or a combination of the two," he said.

He said his country was currently forced to let the 3,000 to 4,000 migrants who arrive in his country daily continue their journey to Serbia and Hungary unimpeded.

"There is no European consensus on how we can handle this question," he said.

As of Friday morning, an estimated 7,600 refugees had already crossed into Macedonia from Greece in a 24-hour period, according to the UN refugee agency.  

Peter Salama, UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said millions of people in Syria could become refugees and head to Europe if there is no end to the war.

Despite efforts to hold them back, hundreds more refugees were observed crossing into Macedonia Friday morning. They are reportedly being organized into groups of 50 people and being bussed to the border with Serbia to continue their journey.

Syrian refugees Bassem, his wife Marwa, and their child Ali, were among those in the crowd on Macedonia’s southern border. They left Syria 25 days ago, entering Greece through the island of Rhodes.

Bassem and Marwa told Al Jazeera that they had feared Ali would not make the Mediterranean crossing.

"We know it's going to be difficult here, we know some don't want us, but it's still much better than Syria," Bassem said.

Along with neighboring Serbia, Macedonia has become a major transit country for tens of thousands of refugees who trudge up from Greece, after risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea crammed into makeshift boats.

The majority is heading for Germany, which has pledged to welcome hundreds of thousands more refugees having already taken in 450,000 to date since January.

So far this year, an estimated 160,000 have already crossed through Macedonia on their way to Serbia and then Hungary.

Last month, the small Balkan nation declared a state of emergency as it struggled to cope with the relentless stream of people.

Reports overnight said that Hungary's government is considering declaring a state of emergency within the next week. 

Authorities there completed a razor-wire barrier along its 175km border with Serbia in late August, but it has failed to stop distraught refugees from scaling the barrier.

The central European nation is building another fence four meters high that it aims to complete by late October or early November, and the government has said it will be manned by the military.

On Friday, the wife of an Austrian politician said Hungarian police have been feeding refugees "like animals in a pen" inside a border camp.

Michaela Spritzendorfer filmed the footage of the refugees surging forward against the fences surrounding them as officers toss food packets to them.

It reportedly happened at a makeshift camp in the Hungarian town of Rozke.

The incident was filmed on the same day the UN commissioner on refugees said conditions were getting worse there.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has ordered his administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the country.

The United States has taken in just 1,500 Syrians since the civil war began in 2011.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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