Migrant tensions flare at Macedonian-Greek border
By Eszter Zalan
Macedonian police used stun grenades and tear gas to push back hundreds of frustrated Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers stuck on the Greek side of the border, after they tried to force their way across the border into Macedonia on Monday (29 February).
Thousands are stuck on the Greek side after Austria and Balkan countries restricted border crossings, with people forced out of the Idomeni refugee camp onto surrounding fields.
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About 6,500 Syrian and Iraqi refugees are camped out around Idomeni, with another 500 moved to a make-shift camp nearby.
Aslyum seekers desperate to move on to the north chanted “Open the border!" and "We want to go to Serbia!" and pushed their way passed Greek police, but the Macedonian forces repelled the protestors, AP reported
Several women and children were nearly trampled and Macedonian authorities said one officer was injured, AP said.
According to reports, only about 50 asylum seekers were allowed to cross into Macedonia on Monday, making the bottleneck, which had feared for months, very real in Greece.
Authorities say more than 22,000 people are now stuck and more are arriving every day. That number could reach up to 70,000 by next month.
Macedonia said it will only allow in as many people as Serbia accepts, and Serbia has been allowing fewer people as Austria capped the numbers it allowes in and through its territory daily.
With the bottleneck scenario is creating a humanitarian crisis in Greece, German chancellor Angela Merkel lashed out against Austria.
“We can't do this in such a way that we simply abandon Greece,” Merkel said Sunday on ARD television.
“This is exactly what I fear: When one country defines its border, another must suffer. That is not my Europe,” she added.
The European Commission has been working on “contingency plans” to help Greece and other Western Balkan countries cope with the crisis.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the commission is preparing to allocate €700 million over the next three years for humanitarian aid inside the bloc, primarily for Greece.