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Protest against the possible opening of a refugee camp in Demir Kapija

A protest was held in Demir Kapija on Thursday, against a project which locals fear will lead to the opening of a migrant camp. Documents from the International Organization for Migration showed that it has opened a bid for a construction project in this small city on the Vardar river, along the main north – south transportation link in Macedonia.

“Demir Kapija, as its name says, has for centuries been the iron gate of Macedonia. In the past years it was a flash-point in the migrant crisis. Now we see that attempts are made to provoke another such crisis”, said protest organizer Boris Damovski, from the association For a United Macedonia, which led the protests in front of the Macedonian Parliament, against the controversial Tirana platform.

Demir Kapija Mayor Trajce Dimitriev said that the project is planned at an old hospital and was considered as a regional center for the elderly by the Government, but the plan was eventually dropped. Several attempts to sell the site also failed. He said that he has no knowledge in the IOM project because it is led directly with the Government, but that Demir Kapija will be adamantly opposed to opening a refugee camp. Mayor Dimitriev said that if the IOM plan is really to build a refugee camp, then he will call for a municipal referendum against the proposal.

Macedonia was on the Balkan migrant route in 2015 and 2016, seeing up to 10.000 migrants and refugees cross the country a day, until the army and the police joined forces to close the border with Greece and effectively end the Balkan route. Fears have remained that, with changing political circumstances in Europe and in the region, the route may be re-opened, but also that European countries may try to return some of the failed asylum seekers into Macedonia and house them in camps.

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