More than half a million people transited through the Republic of Macedonia in the first half of 2015. In this period, 5.000 to 10.000 people passed through the border crossings on a daily basis. Data revealed that not all of these people were refugees, namely that less than three quarters of surveyed 1.538 persons fled from the war zones.
The refugee and migrant crisis created the strongest pressure on Macedonia’s borders in 2015. Uncontrolled waves of refugees and migrants at country’s southern border amounted up to 10.000 people daily in the summer period, which created the need to activate the crisis management system in the Republic of Macedonia. In the first half of 2015 more than 500.000 people transited through the country’s territory and more followed after the amendment to the asylum legislation on the 18th of June of that year. The transit of more than half a million people unavoidably created security risks that went beyond illegal migration, and included smuggling, transporting persons that intended to execute terror attacks on European soil, and mercenaries-returnees from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq.
The Macedonian Intelligence Agency (AR) delivered information to the assessment group on the 19th of August 2015 and shortly afterwards, the Government brought the decision to declare an emergency situation on the southern and northern borders of the country for a period of 30 days. On September the 19th 2015, the Macedonian Assembly passed the decision to declare an emergency situation on the borders until the 19th of June 2016.
Numbers showed that more than half of the suspected 1.538 individuals interviewed by the Intelligence Agency, or more specifically 58 percent, declared Germany as their final destination. Less than three quarters, namely 71 percent, stated that they left their home countries because of war or deteriorated security. The most frequented migration route was from Syria, through Turkey to Greece. The most frequented transit city was Izmir in Turkey with 31 percent and the most frequented arrival destination in Europe was the Greek island of Lesbos.
The two top security challenges faced by the crisis management group occurred on the March the 14th and April the 10th, when groups of 2.000 people in the first event and 4.000 people in the second event, attempted to push through the southern border of Macedonia near the city of Gevgelija. Their efforts were motivated by foreign volunteer anarchist organizations. These events followed the decision for shutting down the Balkan route, after the EU-Turkey Agreement.
In both cases AR informed the crisis management group about the tensions and the intents of organized groups to forcefully enter the country, ultimately hindering their plans for forcefully reopening the borders and preventing the possibility of trapping people within Macedonia.
SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES OF THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
The Intelligence Agency commenced organizational activities based on the declared emergency situation aimed at providing continuous, timely and accurate information for the state institutions regarding migration in all its aspects over the eastern Mediterranean route. On of AR’s key tasks was informing border police about the number of people expected to arrive in a period of the upcoming 8 to 48 hours. Over 200 daily briefs were addressed to the Centre for Crisis Management and the Ministry of Interior, and more than 110 papers were delivered to end users of the Agency’s services: The President of the Republic of Macedonia, the Prime Minister, the Defense Ministry, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other institutions. Over 40 documents were issued in the exchange of information with partner institutions in other countries. The overall production of information related to the crisis situations is estimated at over 500 written documents.