BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia will send 25 police officers to help Macedonia guard the Balkan country’s borders strained by migrants flooding to the European Union, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Tuesday.
More than 1 million refugees and migrants came to the European Union by land or sea in 2015, the International Organization for Migration said in December.
Many of those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have arrived via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary or Croatia. More are still pouring into Greece daily by the thousands.
The Slovak government, which will next week approve sending the police officers to Macedonia from February, is also likely extend a 20-person mission to Slovenia, Fico told reporters. Slovakia has already sent 50 police officers to Hungary.
“We are ready to help other countries on a bilateral level or as part of international cooperation,” Fico said.
“We are worried what will happen in the first spring months, (when) if the U.N. estimates are right the influx of migrants will be bigger than we have seen so far,” he added.
EU members have struggled to agree on a strategy to tackle the migrant crisis. Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all opposed a plan for mandatory national quotas to share out 120,000 asylum seekers among the bloc’s 28 member states.
Slovakia and Hungary have also challenged the plan in court. (nL8N13R1YD)
Slovakia, which is due to take in 802 migrants under the scheme, argues it has no power to keep migrants in if they wish to move on to Germany and other richer EU member states.
It only received 169 asylum requests last year.
Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Tom Heneghan