Macedonia police fire grenades at migrants

A man shields a boy as they are stuck between Macedonian riot police officers and migrants during a clash near the border train station ofIdomeni, northern Greece, as they wait to be allowed by the Macedonian police to cross to Macedonia. Picture: AP

Macedonian police special forces have fired stun grenades to disperse thousands of migrants stuck in a no-man s land at the border with Greece.

The move came a day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency on its borders to deal with a massive influx of migrants heading north to Europe.

The crowd of 3,000 migrants, who spent the night out in the open, made several attempts to charge police lines after the border was shut to crossings. At least four people were injured in the clash.

Police backed by armoured vehicles also spread coils of razor wire over rail tracks used by migrants to cross on foot from Greece to Macedonia.

Greece has seen an unprecedented wave of migrants crossing clandestinely to its islands from the nearby Turkish coast.

One youngster was seen bleeding from what appeared to be shrapnel from the stun grenades that were fired directly into the crowd.

The vast majority of the migrants are fleeing war and conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, and the influx has overwhelmed Greek authorities, particularly on the islands, many of which are small tourist destinations unequipped to deal with mass arrivals of refugees.

Few want to remain in Greece, a country in the grip of a financial crisis. The vast majority head straight to the country’s northern border with Macedonia, from where they cram on to trains and head north through Serbia and Hungary on their way to the more prosperous European north and countries such Germany, the Netherlands, and those in Scandinavia.

Macedonian police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said police and the army would control the 50km border stretch to stop a “massive” influx of migrants coming from Greece.

“This measure is being introduced for the security of citizens who live in the border areas and for better treatment of the migrants,” said Kotevski.

Until now, the border has been porous, with only a few patrols on each side.

Sealing it disrupts the Balkan corridor for migrants who start in Turkey, take boats to Greece or walk to Bulgaria, then make their way through Macedonia or Serbia heading north to the EU.

Almost 39,000 migrants, most of them Syrians, have registered as passing through Macedonia over the past month, double the number from the month before.

Separately, the coast guard said it had picked up 620 people in 15 search-and-rescue operations in the last 24 hours off the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Agathonissi, Leros, Farmakonissi, Kos, and Megisti. That does not include the hundreds more who have reached the islands on their own.


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