Macedonia to Pass Law Allowing Migrants Three Days' Free Passage

The Macedonian government has adopted a bill that would allow migrants coming illegally into the country three days to pass through.

Footage from June 11 raidThe new law, which was adopted on Tuesday and is expected to pass through Parliament on Thursday, is intended to deter migrants from using dangerous routes. 

The move comes as the government encountered heavy criticism over the plights faced by asylum seekers, migrants and refugees who were hurt or killed while hiding from authorities.

Reports suggest an increase in people travelling from conflict-stricken countries in the Middle East and North Africa using Macedonia as a transit point on their way towards the European Union.

They often travel through the country by the south-north railway line that begins in Greece and goes as far as Serbia.  

This route has proven unsafe both for those who walk along the tracks and those who board trains.

Balkan Insight recently reported that at least 25 migrants had been killed by oncoming trains while following the tracks.

And a report by Britain's Channel 4 investigated claims by two Syrian migrants that hundreds of Middle Eastern migrants were being held for ransom at a house in a small village after a criminal gang intercepted their train carriage and kidnapped them.

On June 11, authorities raided ten properties in the village of Vaksince and found 128 Middle Eastern migrants in five of them.

Recently, pressure from human rights groups has mounted on the government over alleged unsanitary conditions in the allegedly crowded migrant detention center Gazi Baba in Skopje.

video has emerged showing people pleading for help from inside the center.

"Everybody is sick here," says a detainee through metal bars. "We need your help, take us out of here."

In February, Transparency International called for urgent action on the Gazi Baba center. They said that hundreds of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including children, were unlawfully detained in the overcrowded facility under degrading and inhuman conditions – sometimes for more than six months.

Opposition politicians have been vocal on the topic. Social Democrats (SDSM) spokesman Peter Shilegov that the way Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's government has dealt with asylum seekers was "shaming the country to the world".