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    Refugees and migrants line up to board a ferry after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos on October 16, 2015

    New EU Plan on Refugees May Worsen Situation in Balkans - Rights Group

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    The new EU-Balkan plan on boosting cooperation amid the refugee crisis risks worsening the situation and blocking asylum seekers’ access to protection, a human rights group said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On Sunday, the leaders of several EU states and EU candidates convened and devised a 17-point plan aimed at ameliorating the situation at the so-called Western Balkans Migration Route. The plan envisions increasing cooperation and consultations, as well as discourages movement of refugees to the border of countries without informing neighboring states. It also calls for returns of those not in need of protection, as well as stipulates that a country could refuse entry to those who do not apply for this protection.

    "It’s good to see the EU and Balkan leaders acknowledging the humanitarian crisis and agreeing to try to avert disaster as the weather turns. But rather than making the flow more orderly and predictable and the processing of asylum claims fairer and more efficient, the plan could simply divert asylum seekers and block them from getting protection," Benjamin Ward, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

    According to the HRW, there are two risks related to the new measures.

    Some European countries could turn away the refugees who do not wish to register there, yet some refugees choose not to seek asylum in certain states over concerns of xenophobia or that their relatives are in other countries. The second concern is that with the new measures the transit European countries could be overwhelmed with the number of people seeking asylum and would be unable to help them in a due manner, as well as close their borders.

    Europe is struggling to manage a major influx of migrants fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Over 710,000 migrants arrived in the European Union within the first nine months of 2015, according to the EU border agency Frontex.

    In September, EU interior ministers approved a plan to redistribute some 160,000 refugees throughout the bloc under a quota system.

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    refugee crisis, Frontex, Human Rights Watch, Balkans
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