‘Open the border’: Macedonia repels refugees demand entry from Greece

  1. Special to WorldTribune.com

Hundreds of refugees, yelling “open the border” and “we want to go to Serbia,” were repelled by Macedonian police as the migrants attempted to force their way in from the Greek border on Feb. 29.

Macedonia sent special police reinforcements by helicopter to its border with Greece as frustrated Iraqi and Syrian refugees, stuck for days on the Greek side of the border, were driven back with tear gas and stun grenades when they tried to force their way across, according to an Associated Press report.

Refugees swarm a Greece-Macedonia border crossing. /Reuters
Refugees swarm a Greece-Macedonia border crossing. /Reuters

Thousands of refugees have been stuck for days on the Greek side of the border as they wait for Macedonian authorities to let them continue their trek through the Balkans. Only a small number of people from specific countries have been allowed to cross each day.

Macedonian police opened the border crossing to about 50 people just before midday on Feb. 29 but closed it again after the clashes.

Macedonia’s government said it will only allow in as many people as Serbia accepts. Serbia said it is responding to refugee caps set by Austria. The result is a huge bottleneck in Greece, where authorities say more than 22,000 people are stuck and more are arriving every day.

More than a million migrants have entered Europe since January 2015, most arriving in small smugglers’ boats from Turkey on Greece’s eastern Aegean Sea islands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to resist calls at home and elsewhere in Europe for limits on refugees.

“We can’t do this in such a way that we simply abandon Greece,” she said on Feb. 28. “This is exactly what I fear: When one country defines its limit, another must suffer. That is not my Europe.”

At next week’s summit, EU leaders “will discuss how we can restore the (passport-free) Schengen system step by step with Greece,” Merkel said.

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s deputy chancellor, said on Feb. 29 that the refugee restrictions in Austria “are necessary (and) we’re going to maintain them.”