Thousands of refugees stuck near Greek-Macedonian border

Thousands of refugees find themselves between Greece and Macedonia without shelter while trying to cross over to Macedonia

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

At least 80 buses packed with refugees, many of them women and children have fled the war in Syria

Updated Feb 16, 2016

Thousands of refugees were stranded near a Greece-Macedonia border crossing on Friday, several days after they set out along a major highway in Greece heading north for Macedonia.

At least 80 buses packed with refugees, many of them women and children fleeing the war in Syria, were backed up at a petrol station near Polikastro south of Greece's border with Macedonia.

Tempers frayed over the slow pace of passage over the border, as many migrants complained that they were not given proper food or shelter.

"You can see this, there is no place to sleep. Most of the people sleep on the bus, and it's windy and cloudy and sometimes raining. And we bought our thing from there but if they want to keep us for a longer time here, maybe we need shower, you know, or money, so it's not a good situation," said Abdula, a refugee from Iraq.

"We don't have enough food. Just in three days they have once (distributed) food, and always we are buying. We are thinking if we finish the little money we have, with also what can we do?," said Bezan from Afghanistan.

Macedonia is letting refugees cross only in small numbers, directing them to buses and night trains for the journey north to Serbia en route to western Europe. Taxis were also an option for those who could afford them.

Taxi drivers in Macedonia, after blocking the railway line between the two countries earlier this week to protest the fact that police gave priority first to trains and buses to take the migrants, were now allowed to transport the migrants.

But complaints emerged that some taxi drivers were doubling the rate and charging up to 250 euros per journey, which used to cost just 100 euros prior to the strike.

More than one million people fleeing poverty, war and repression in the Middle East, Asia and Africa reached Europe's shores last year, most heading for Germany. More than 62,000 arrived in Greece last month.

Macedonian government has introduced new measures to increase border security with Greece and now required all refugees entering Macedonia to undergo a 30-minute interview at the border to prove their nationality.

The measures were put in place after a recent meeting between Austria and countries on the so-called Balkan route.

Macedonia, Austria, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia agreed on the rapid exchange of information and new procedures to identify refugees individually at Macedonia's southern border with Greece.

TRTWorld, Reuters