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Be ready to halt migrant flow, Austria tells Macedonia

by Reuters
Friday, 12 February 2016 12:47 GMT

* Austria says it will reach migrant limit within months

* Says Macedonia should stop them at border with Greece

* Macedonia completing metal fence at main crossing point (Updates with Macedonia's Poposki, adds background)

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Austria told Macedonia on Friday to be ready to "completely stop" the flow of migrants across its southern border from Greece and said it would do the same on its own frontiers within months.

Macedonia has erected two lines of metal fencing topped with razor wire along the border at the main crossing point from Greece for migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, crossing the Balkan peninsula en route to western Europe.

Austria, which received 90,000 asylum requests last year, has set a limit of less than half that number for this year. More than a million reached Europe's shores last year, and over 80,000 in the first six weeks of this year.

"Most probably in the coming months our maximum number will be reached, so Austria will have to stop the migrants at its border," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said during a visit to the Macedonian capital, Skopje.

"Macedonia must be ready to completely stop the entry of migrants on its borders," he said through a translator from German into Macedonian.

"We know this will be a hard task and today we agreed that Austria will lend its support, not only in terms of personnel such as police and army but with equipment too."

His Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Poposki, said Skopje would coordinate all future steps with other countries along the migrant corridor and would "reflect the decisions taken in Germany, Austria and other European countries." (Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Kevin Liffey/Ruth Pitchford)

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