Migrants Break Down Macedonia Fence on Greek Border

BBC News, February 29, 2016

Macedonian police have fired tear gas at a crowd of migrants who destroyed a barbed-wire fence on the Greek border using a makeshift battering ram.

TV footage showed migrants pushing against the fence at Idomeni in Greece, ripping away barbed wire.

A section of fence was smashed open with a metal signpost. It is unclear if any migrants crossed the border.

About 7,000 people are stuck on the Greek side of the border, as Macedonia is letting very few in.

Many have been camping in squalid conditions for a week or more, with little food or medical help. Most of those trying to reach northern Europe are Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The chaos on Monday erupted as hundreds of people pushed their way past Greek police, shouting “Open the border!”, to reach the gate used to let trains through at the border crossing. Some threw stones at Macedonian riot police.

Macedonia and some other Balkan countries have erected fences in an attempt to reduce the influx of migrants, after more than a million reached Germany last year.

Greece is angry with Austria further north for having imposed a cap on migrant numbers. The crisis has left Greece shouldering much of the burden of housing migrants arriving in the EU from Turkey.

Many are refugees fleeing war in the Middle East, while others are escaping human rights abuses in Afghanistan, Eritrea and other conflict zones.

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Greece, under intense pressure from anxious EU partners, has erected extra reception centres on the Greek islands near Turkey, where thousands of migrants have been arriving daily.

The number of people who arrived into Greece in only two months this year is already more than three times higher than all the arrivals in 2014.

Austria and Hungary have adopted a tougher stance than Germany. Hungary has fenced off its southern border and refuses to take in any non-EU migrants.

“Tragically, there seems to be more willingness among European countries to co-ordinate blocking borders than to provide refugees and asylum seekers with protection and basic services,” Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Amnesty International’s director in Greece, told AP.

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