Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Migrants injured in Greece-Macedonian border clashes

Macedonian police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse migrants at the Idomeni crossing who were demanded that the border with Greece be opened, injuring dozens.

Aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Sunday (10 April) it had treated 300 people, 200 with respiratory problems because of the tear gas, including 30 children between five and 15 years old.

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MSF said the authorities had fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades at those trying to force their way into Macedonia.

The aid group said 40 people had been injured by rubber bullets, and at least 10 reported to MSF teams that the Macedonian police had beaten them.

Greece has condemned the Macedonian police.

“The indiscriminate use of chemicals, rubber bullets and stun grenades against vulnerable populations... is a dangerous and deplorable act,” Greek government spokesman George Kyritsis said.

Violence erupted after a group of migrants approached the border fence between the two countries, asking Macedonian police to open the border.

When they refused, the situation escalated, with Macedonian police officials saying migrants had thrown stones at them.

“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 quoted a police official as saying.

Macedonian police confirmed only the use of tear gas.

More than 11,000 refugees and migrants are stranded on the Greek side of the border at Idomeni, because Balkan countries closed their borders in mid-February, cutting off access to northern Europe.

Greek authorities have been trying to persuade migrants to move to other camps, but people are still waiting at the border in the hope that the borders will open.

More than 50,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece.

'Absurd' crisis

Last week Greece began deporting migrants under an EU-Turkey deal that allows them to send back anyone who does not ask for asylum.

Since deportations have begun, there has been a wave of anxiety among migrants who fear they might also be returned to Turkey or get stuck in Greece.

“Today, frustration and a growing feeling of anger are spreading among the refugees who have been stranded in Idomeni for over one month,” Jose Hulsenbek, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece said in a statement.

“What we see is the inevitable result of thousands being trapped in Greece, a country unable to respond to the humanitarian and protection needs of those in search of safety in Europe.

“This absurd humanitarian crisis created by European states’ policies is becoming more unbearable by the day.”

The International Organisation for Migration said the rate of arrivals to the Greek islands from Turkey had dropped in the first week of April.

But hundreds still try the perilous journey between Turkey and the islands.

Greece's coastguard said on Saturday that at least five migrants had drowned in the eastern Aegean Sea after a small plastic boat capsized – thought to be the first deaths since the EU-Turkey came into force.

The bodies of four women and a child were found north-east of the Greek island of Samos, close to the Turkish coast.

Most of the 6,750 migrants already on the Greek islands are applying for asylum, and deportations have been halted to process their claims.

Nikos Xydakis of the Greek foreign ministry said over the weekend it would take at least two weeks to fix the process of deporting migrants.

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