Macedonian police use tear gas on migrants at Greek border
IDOMENI – Greece on Sunday condemned as “dangerous and deplorable” the use of teargas by the Macedonian police against crowds of migrants gathered on the Greek side of the border at Idomeni, an outpost where thousands are waiting for shuttered borders to reopen.
Earlier attempts by a large group to cross the border fence prompted skirmishes with police, a Macedonian official said. Aid organisations at the camp said some migrants were wounded and police in Skopje said three officers were also hurt.
More than 10,000 migrants and refugees have been stranded at Idomeni since February after a cascade of border shutdowns throughout the Balkans closed off their route to central and western Europe.
Greece said police on the Macedonian side of their joint frontier used teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to push back the migrants. Macedonian authorities would only confirm they used teargas.
More than a million people fleeing conflict poured into Europe mainly through Greece in the past year. The European Union is implementing an accord under which all new arrivals to Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not meet asylum criteria.
A Macedonian official who asked to remain anonymous said that a large group of migrants left Idomeni camp on Sunday morning and stormed towards the fence.
“They threw rocks at the Macedonian police. The police fired tear gas in response,” the official said.
“The migrants were pushing against the fence but standing on the Greek side of the border. The fence is still there, they have not broken through.”
Reuters witnesses said a small group of migrants attempted to talk to Macedonian border guards, asking for them to open the border. After given a negative response, they and other migrants started walking towards the fence.
Macedonian police fired teargas, and some migrants hurled back some gas canisters and rocks, they said. -Reuters