Several thousand refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who tried to enter Macedonia from Greece on Friday were met by Macedonian police. A Reuters reporter said tear gas was fired and at least four injured refugees were taken for treatment on the Greek side of the border.
The refugees, many of them from Syrian, were just the latest among thousands flocking to the Macedonian border every day. The flow into Macedonia has reportedly reached 1,500-2,000 per day in recent weeks, up from about 200 daily in May.
Macedonia on Thursday declared a state of emergency on the border with Greece and engaged riot police and armoured vehicles to stem the flow of migrants into the country.
“Due to an increasing pressure on the southern border… it is estimated that greater and more efficient control is needed in the region where illegal border crossings from the Greek side have been massively registered,” read a statement from the Macedonian authorities.
Reuters correspondents report that tensions have subsided. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Red Cross are at the scene, with the UNHCR urging Macedonian officials to provide more space to be used as shelter for migrants and refugees on its side of the border.
Macedonian interior ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski accused Greece of worsening the crisis by aiding migrants and failing to oversee its borders.
“Unfortunately, not only Greece is not securing its border, on the contrary, we have seen countless numbers of organised transport of illegal migrants to our southern border,” he said.
Macedonia, a non-EU country, has become a major passageway for thousands of migrants who are fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East, as well as dismal conditions in Africa and Asia. Arriving on boats from Turkey, then walking through Greece into Macedonia to catch trains to the Serbian border. Once at the border, they try to enter Hungary, a EU-nation.
The urgency with which migrants try to enter Macedonia is partly fueled by the fence that Hungary is currently building at its Serbian border to prevent migrant access to the European Union where borders are more porous, and many imagine a better life awaits.
“We want to go to Germany to find a new life, because everything has been destroyed in Syria,” Amina Asmani, a woman traveling with her husband and infant child said. “The policemen only let us on the train because they feel sorry for the baby.”
A 20-year-old Syrian migrant interviewed at Gevgelija railway station near the border told the Associated Press “We are not afraid of anything. We escaped from dying.”