More than 100000 migrants reach Europe in 2016 –

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The numbers are already causing political paroxysms in Europe, with Greece on Tuesday angrily protesting a decision by Macedonia to close its border to Afghan refugees, bottling some 8,000 new migrants on the frontier.

The move to throttle the flows northwards from Greece has the quiet backing of several European powers who have accused Greece of “waving through” nearly a million migrants last year.

As tensions grew along the so-called Balkans route, a statement by the European Commission warned that a “humanitarian crisis” was now brewing in certain countries “especially in Greece”.

“We call on all countries and actors along the route to prepare the necessary contingency planning to be able to address humanitarian needs, including reception capacities,” the statement said.

Fears of a full-blown political crisis deepened after Austria announced last week it was capping asylum seekers at 80 per day while ‘waving through’ a further 3,200 to Germany, a decision which was condemned by the European Commission.

The caps, which have also been adopted by Slovenia, were condemned by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday which warned the measures risked “violating EU law” and undermining efforts to find European-wide solution to the crisis.

However an unrepentant Austria is due to host west Balkan states for a summit on Wednesday to discuss efforts to manage the flow, but pointedly did not invite Greece.

A migrant girl cries at the Greek-Macedonian border

Nikos Kotzias, the Greek foreign minister, responded angrily to the snub, saying the Austrian decision was a “unilateral and non-friendly act” that was “not at all friendly toward our country”.

Faced with a fresh bottleneck, Greek authorities bussed hundreds of Afghan migrants to a reception centre outside Athens that was set up by the army last week, in response to European pressure on to do more.

Mirwais Amin, a 20-year-old Afghan, said he was separated from relatives after being stopping from reaching the border and camping out at a nearby site.

“Macedonia isn’t letting migrants through,” he said. “I can’t get to the (border) camp, and members of my family are there. It’s cold here and we have no food.”

The International Rescue Committee, the relief agency now headed by David Miliband, the former foreign secretary, described Macedonia’s decision to close its border as “arbitrary”, with potentially “serious humanitarian consequences”.

Europe has been threatening for several weeks to effectively shift the Schengen border northwards – a threat that it is now quietly carrying out, according to Dr Angeliki Dimitriadi, migration expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Migrants from Afghanistan gather near the Greek-Macedonian border

“It is already happening. The Macedonia land border with is now closed to anyone who is not a Syrian or Iraqi and doesn’t have a passport or ID doc. They are no longer even accepting entry with papers provided by Greek police,” she said.

The apparent inability of the EU institutions to find a joint solution to the migrant crisis and the growing prospect of a British vote to leave the European Union in June, has heightened fears that a “Brexit” could herald a wider unravelling in Europe.

Britain’s exit from the EU could trigger the departure of the Czech Republic from the bloc, the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, warned. “If Britain leaves the EU, we can expect debates about leaving the EU in a few years too,” he said.

More than 100000 migrants reach Europe in 2016 –