A rift between Macedonia and Greece over the refugee crisis deepened, with Macedonia accusing its southern neighbour of not reacting to prevent hundreds of refugees from attempting to breach a border fence between the two countries.
Macedonia’s foreign ministry asked Greece to fully engage its police forces to prevent what it called the violent rioting of migrants.
The call came a day after seven-hour clashes between Macedonian security forces and hundreds of migrants and refugees who attempted to break through the border fence at an impromptu refugee camp housing more than 11,000 people near the Greek village of Idomeni.
Macedonian authorities fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and medical aid agencies said they treated 300 people, including children, for respiratory problems and injuries.
Macedonia said 14 police officers and nine soldiers were wounded.
Greek police observed from their side of the border and did not intervene, while the Greek government strongly criticised the “indiscriminate use of chemicals, plastic bullets and stun grenades against vulnerable people.”
A few hundred people also protested in Idomeni, marching to the razor-wire border fence carrying a Greek and German flag, but no violence was reported.
More than 53,000 people who made their way to Greece from Turkey have been stranded since Balkan and European nations shut their land borders.
Greece has been building refugee camps, but does still not have the capacity to house them all.
Those in Idomeni have refused to leave the sprawling camp, made up mostly of small tents pitched along railway tracks and in fields, in the hope the border might open.
Activists have circulated in the camp over the past few weeks, distributing fliers urging camp residents to protest and make a push on the fence.
The Macedonian foreign ministry said Skopje has been requesting from Athens “cooperation, information sharing and preventive action to dissuade violent rioting of migrants and illegal border crossing into Macedonian territory.”
The “establishment of law and order in the border zone in and around migrant reception centers, is essential to prevent such incidents in the future,” the ministry said.
The UNHCR said the border clashes are “a matter of great worry.”
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