Commemorating 26th of April 2015

Toay 26th of April we are commemorating the day when Legis took the initiative of having the Law on Asylum amended, on 26th of April 2015. In order to regulate the transit of the so-called “illegal migrants” through Macedonia, and in order to protect them from accidents and unpleasant situations with which they were facing along the way, the then President of Legis, Jasmin Redjepi, issued the following statement:

“We have come up with suggestions, in coordination with other human rights and humanitarian organisations, and soon we are supposed to submit an official suggestion to the authorities, how these tragedies can be prevented, what amendments should be made, for example, change of the status from “illegal migrants” to “refugees”. That will enable them to get humanitarian aid instead of getting robbed”, Redjepi said in a statement for Kanal 5.

The statement was issued to the media following the death of the fourteen refugees on 23rd of April in 2015 who lost their lives while walking on the rails 20 km away north of Veles. That was the greatest loss of human lives of refugees in a single day in Macedonia although there had been previous instances of fatalities, and the total number is over 30 refugees. That is the reason why on the day of their funeral we demanded that the Law be amended, a bill which was eventually adopted by the Government and passed by the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia in June 2015. The Law stipulated registration of all the refugees and enabled them to express an intention for asylum, a document which granted them the right to stay for 72 hours on the territory of Macedonia so as to seek asylum in Skopje or leave the country. In addition, the intention for asylum gave them the right to use public transport in order not to walk along railways and motorways, to be able to transit faster and safer, and to get free medical aid, as well.

The introduction of these amendments to the Law on Asylum did solve a number of problems with which refugees were faced and was a make or break for their safety during their transit through Macedonia. Now, three years later, we are commemorating two years since the closure of the Balkan Route meaning refugees transiting irregularly get to have the same status as the one before the first half of 2015, and the present newly enacted Law on Asylum, which is stricter than the previous one. Its content is debatable and will be subject to repeal at the Constitutional Court.