Chaos and clashes with police at the Greece-FYROM borders

SIMELA PANTZARTZI

Refugees stay in the buffer zone at the refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece, as they wait to be allowed to cross the border with FYROM, 29 February 2016. FYROM police fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants after they stormed a metal fence along the border with Greece on 29 February, as refugees were blocked from travelling between the two countries on the main route to Western Europe.

Thousands of refugees stuck at the Greek borders with FYROM protested against the closure of the borders. FYROM police used teargas to disperse the crowd.


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Close to 7,000 refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq, who are stuck at the Greek borders with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) demonstrated against the closure of the borders decided by FYROM authorities.

The demonstrators broke down a barbed wire fence and the FYROM border police started to throw teargas at the Greek territory to disperse the crowd and prevent the people in need from entering the forbidden territory.

During the weekend, and before Monday’s clashes, there were numerous protests with the refugees asking the opening of the borders. However, as the peaceful demonstrations didn’t bring any result, Monday’s demonstration got more intense.

A lot of refugees gathered on a train track connecting Greece with FYROM while hundreds gathered in front of fence’s main entrance. According to Deutsche Welle, the protesters broke the first Greek police blockade and started running towards the border crossing. Those on the frontline were holding a battering ram in the hope of tearing down the fence.

The protesters were shouting “Open the Border” and some of them stormed the entrance of the fence and manage to open it for a couple of seconds. The FYROM police immediately placed barricades to keep the door shut. Then more refugees stormed the entrance and it opened once again. Then the police started to fire teargas directly to the crowd and according to Deutsche Welle, tefugees and journalists started running in panic. Everyone was crying out of fear of what might happen next – even as the crowd dispersed, the teargas kept coming.

Situation at Idomeni

The situation in Idomeni, a small Greek village with population close to 150 people, will most likely deteriorate. Most of the thousands of refugees are stuck at Idomeni because it is close to the FYROM borders.

Deutsche Welle, reported that the conditions in Idomeni are horrible. Antonis Rigas, Field Coordinator for Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) explained that the camp is designed to host around 3,000 people. However, since the closure of the FYROM borders approximately 7,000 refugees are estimated living in the camp.

The situation will most likely get worse and the UN has asked from the countries participating at the unofficial Balkan Route coalition, led by Austria, to open their borders. If the current situation continues thousands of refugees will stuck in Greece as they will be unable to reach their destination EU countries.

Comments by Amnesty International

Amnesty International said in a press release that the chaos at the Greece-FYROM border crossing of Idomeni is the result of a shameful spate of discriminatory border closures.

“Tragically, there seems to be more willingness among European countries to coordinate blocking borders than to provide refugees and asylum-seekers with protection and basic services,” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece.

Amnesty International has witnessed at the Greece-FYROM borders, refugees and asylum-seekers, including families with very young children and people with disabilities sleeping rough. In addition, it noted that thousands of other asylum-seekers are staying in bad conditions at the port of Pireus.

“The pressure on the Balkans to stop letting people through, with no alternative ways of moving people out of Greece, leaves refugees and asylum-seekers, including young children fleeing the horrors of war and persecution, stranded in dire conditions without any idea of what happens next,” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos.

“How many children sleeping in the cold does it take for Europe to finally grasp that the only long-term solution is organizing safe and legal ways for refugees and asylum-seekers to receive the protection they so desperately need?”

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