Refugees try to break through into Macedonia from Greece

Stranded refugees try to break through barbed-wire fences on Greek border to enter Macedonia as some Balkan countries impose new restrictions

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Macedonian policemen hold back a refugee during clashes near Gevgelija at the Greek-Macedonian border, November 26, 2015

Over 200 refugees tried to break through a barbed-wire fence check point on the Greek border and enter Macedonia on Thursday, after they were not allowed to pass, due to the Balkan country imposing new border restrictions last week.

They had broken thru about 30-40 metres of fence and a few of the refugees managed to pass into Macedonia, but they were quickly detained by the police and returned to the Greek side.

There are around 1,500 refugees from Iran, Morocco, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa, in the Greek town of Idomeni, which borders Macedonia.

However, Macedonia and as well as other Balkan countries, decided to allow only those fleeing from the war in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to pass last week, as they are the only ones considered genuine asylum seekers.

Refugees from other countries are deemed to be "economic migrants."

Heritier Shabani, a 31-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was among those who tried to pass the border, said "We can't wait any longer, last night we slept under the rain."

Humanitarian organizations are trying to provide shelter and basic sanitation needs for the refugees who are spending their days sleeping on the ground in Idomeni.

The Greek government said this week that they are encouraging people who have no chance of getting across the border to turn back and that they would provide transportation.

But Shabani said this is not the case.

"The Greeks aren't telling us anything. There are no buses, or not enough buses," he said.

The United Nations has condemned the new restrictions, which are based on nationality.

"Profiling asylum seekers on the basis of their alleged nationality infringes the human right of all people to seek asylum, irrespective of their nationality and to have their individual cases heard," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Adrian Edwards also said "All people have the right to seek asylum, irrespective of their nationality and to have their individual cases heard. Proper information needs to be provided to people affected by decisions at border points, and proper counseling needs to be available."

A plan calling for the transfer of 160,000 refugees to wealthier EU countries was agreed upon by EU leaders in September, however, only 148 refugees have been relocated from Italy and Greece so far under the plan.

TRTWorld and agencies