21 Aug 2015

Macedonia allows migrants entry from Greece

Macedonia allows a limited number of migrants to enter from Greece, hours after police drove back crowds by firing tear gas.

The Macedonian government said it would allow migrants to enter from Greece in numbers that the country can provide transport and care for.

Hundreds of migrants managed to cross the border on Friday, just hours after those attempting to do so were met by Macedonian police who fired tear gas and stun grenades to try to push back the crowds.

Interior ministry spokesperson Ivo Kotevski said: “We are allowing entry to a number that matches our capacity to transport them or to give them appropriate medical care and treatment.”

Several thousand migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia spent a night in no-man’s land after Macedonia declared a state of emergency on Thursday, effectively blocking its southern border to refugees.

Around 1,500 – 2,000 migrants per day had been attempting to cross the border in recent weeks, leading to desperate scenes of crowds wrestling to board packed trains at a nearby railway station, children squeezed through open carriage windows.

“I ran fast and escaped,” said Mohammed Khalid, an 18-year-old Syrian from the devastated city of Aleppo. “They got my brother and most of the others and sent them back to Greece.”

The crowds stranded in no-man’s land may increase through the day as more arrive from Greece, including 2,400 Syrian refugees taken by boat from the island of Kos to the mainland on Thursday.

The United Nations refugee agency has urged Macedonia to allocate more space for migrants in its side of the border. More refugees are expected to arrive at the border from Greece, where a record 50,000 reached Europe by boat from Turkey in July alone.