Clashes broke out between migrants and the FYROM police on Sunday, with Associated Press reporting that hundreds of people were injured.
11,000 refugees and migrants are living in a makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece and they want from national authorities in the Balkan Route to open up their borders and let them reach their final destination.
On Sunday morning, some of the migrants living in Idomeni tried to tear down the border fence between Greece and FYROM and the FYROM police immediately responded by using tear gas, stun grenades, plastic bullets and a water cannon to repel the people in need. According to AP, the migrants replied by throwing stones at the police forces but FYROM police says that the migrants were the first who threw stones at the police forces.
Clashes continued in the afternoon as migrant groups twice tried to overwhelm the FYROM border security. AP reported that the increasing use of tear gas reached families in their nearby tents in Idomeni’s makeshift camp. Many camp dwellers, chiefly women and children, fled into farm fields to escape the painful gas.
After the end of the clashes, humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had treated around 300 injured people. “Two hundred people were treated for respiratory problems caused by tear gas, mostly men but including women and some children under the age of five,” MSF spokesman Jonas Hagensen told the BBC.
He added that more than 30 people were treated for rubber bullet wounds, and a further 10 people said they had been beaten by FYROM police. Some 30 people had also been treated for shock and other injuries and seven had been sent to hospital with more serious wounds.
FYROM police said 23 members of the country’s security forces were injured, including 14 police officers and nine soldiers. Five of the police officers sustained serious injuries.
After the clashes at the Greece – FYROM borders, the Greek Foreign Ministry announced that the head of Greece’s Liaison Office in FYROM, Ambassador Theoharis Lalakos, has made two severe demarches over the violent incidents.
“Ambassador Lalakos made it clear in the most categorical manner that the use of violence in no way whatsoever contributes to the resolution of the refugee problem and is in direct conflict with the relevant provisions of international and humanitarian law. Finally, he called on the FYROM authorities to rise to the occasion and exhibit the proper responsibility, self-restraint and seriousness,” the Greek Ministry said in a statement.
On the other hand, a FYROM police spokesman said the migrants had hurled stones and other objects at police, and then the police used tear gas to break up the protest. Police spokesman Toni Angelovski said that a large group of refugees attempted to destroy the border fence and enter FYROM.
According to AP, many migrants and refugees do not want to leave from Idomeni and go back to Greek hotspots. Moreover, they are unaware that the European Union governments support FYROM’s decision in early March to block the migrant flow from northern Greece.
A Syrian Kurd from Aleppo, Syria, who is in Idomeni together with his family for two months in a row, dismissed the idea of taking Greece’s offer of accommodation elsewhere as “too slow.”
Greece remains committed to enforcing the EU-Turkey agreement that requires most migrants currently in Greece to be deported back to Turkey. Besides Idomeni, Greece is trying to clear makeshift camps by the end of April at three other locations containing a total of more than 10,000 people: a gas station 11 miles south of Idomeni, the port of Piraeus, and the site of Athens’ defunct former airport.