Macedonian Police Use Tear Gas On Migrants At Greek Border

Stoyan Nenov | Reuters

Macedonian Police Use Tear Gas On Migrants At Greek Border
A teargas canister thrown by Macedonian police lands among protesting migrants during clashes next to a border fence at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

IDOMENI, Greece (Reuters) – Macedonian police used tear gas to push back hundreds of migrants from a border fence at a sprawling refugee camp on the Greek side of the frontier on Sunday, a Reuters witness said.

The escalation in tensions that have been simmering for weeks came after more than 500 people gathered at the fence at the sprawling camp of Idomeni, where more than 10,000 migrants and refugees have been stranded since February after a cascade of border shutdowns throughout the Balkans.

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 don’t 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.

Migrants throw stones at Macedonian police during clashes next to a border fence at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Migrants throw stones at Macedonian police during clashes next to a border fence at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

“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.”

Aid organizations said they were treating people for tear gas exposure. “We have injuries and are extremely busy,” a senior official for medical charity MSF told Reuters. Another aid organization also confirmed injuries among the migrant population.

A migrant catches his breath after inhaling teargas thrown by Macedonian police on a crowd of more than 500 refugees and migrants protesting next to a border fence at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
A migrant catches his breath after inhaling teargas thrown by Macedonian police on a crowd of more than 500 refugees and migrants protesting next to a border fence at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Reuters witnesses said that unease stirred among the migrant population after a small group of individuals attempted to talk to Macedonian border guards and ask for the outpost to be opened. After they received a negative response, other individuals — including some with packed bags — started walking towards the fenced border.

Migrants at Idomeni are demanding that the border with Macedonia be opened, but no migrants have been allowed through for weeks.

Greek authorities have been trying to convince the population to move to reception camps, but migrants have been resolutely refusing to move.

(Additional reporting By Renee Maltezou, Kole Casule, Ayat Basma and Sergiy Karazy; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by David Goodman)