December 17, 2015 / 3:59 PM / 4 years ago

Czech police set to help Macedonia guard its border -ministers

Syrian refugees struggle to enter Macedonia through a narrow border crossing as Macedonian policemen try to shut a metal gate near to the Greek village of Idomeni December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic is likely to send 25 police officers to help Macedonia guard its borders, strained by migrants flooding to the European Union, ministers said on Thursday.

Around 164,000 people reached northern or western Europe in November through the western Balkans, a route that takes them from Turkey through Greece, Macedonia and Hungary or Croatia, the EU border agency Frontex said on Tuesday.

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said the government would decide on Monday whether to send the contingent to Macedonia and extend a 20-strong police mission to Slovenia.

He told reporters he expected the new contingent to be deployed by Feb. 1 at the latest.

Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said he had no doubt the government would approve the contingent for Macedonia, which could grow to up to 50 officers.

Macedonia might also get paramedics, technical staff or supplies from the Czech army, he said.

European Union leaders were discussing their response to migration crisis at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, with special emphasis on strengthening the external frontiers of the border-control-free Schengen zone.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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