Merkel says migrant crisis a 'huge challenge' for Balkans

Vienna (AFP) - Western Balkan countries are facing "huge challenges" due to the tide of migrants trying to reach the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

"Some of them are transit countries and since they are facing a difficult economic situation they are facing huge challenges," Merkel said in Vienna at a summit of leaders from the western Balkan.

"As future members of the European Union, it is our responsibility to ease their problems," she told a news conference.

Between January and July this year, around 102,000 migrants entered the European Union via Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro or Kosovo, the EU border agency Frontex has said.

Last week, Macedonia declared a state of emergency and closed its border with Greece for three days saying it was unable to cope with the surge of migrants entering the country.

At the summit, top diplomats from Macedonia and Serbia asked the EU for more help, saying the money offered so far was insufficient and that they needed help in other ways.

The German leader also pointed out that some of the migrants trying to reach the EU were themselves citizens of the western Balkans who were unlikely to receive asylum in the bloc.

The "tough news.. is that people from these countries who apply for asylum will highly likely have to return home so that we can help the people who really are suffering with war and persecution," she said.