Posted on April 13, 2016

Macedonia Uses Tear Gas on Migrants Trying to Pull Down Border Fence While Italy Rescues 4,000 in the Mediterranean in the Past Two Days

Corey Charlton, Daily Mail, April 13, 2016

Macedonian police today fired stun grenades and tear gas at stranded migrants trying desperately to pull down a fence on the country’s border with Greece.

Greek authorities say neighbouring police resorted to crowd control measures in an attempt to stop about 30 people from trying to get over the razor-wire fence using blankets.

No injuries were reported from the clashes, which occurred at the closed Idomeni border crossing in northern Greece.

It occurred just a few hundred metres away from Macedonia President Gjorge Ivanov, who is visiting the Gevgelija reception centre with his Croatian and Slovenian counterparts.

On Sunday, severe clashes between stone-throwing migrants and Macedonian police using tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and a water cannon left scores injured.

About 11,000 people have been living in an informal tent city on the Greek side of the border for weeks, hoping Macedonia will let them continue their trek towards Europe’s prosperous heartland.

Meanwhile, Italy’s coastguard says it has rescued some 4,000 migrants in the past two days, adding to fears of a fresh push to reach Europe via that route as the number of migrants landing in Greece sharply recedes.

European Union President Donald Tusk warned of the impending explosion of the sea route, saying the number of would-be migrants in Libya is ‘alarming’, it was reported.

On Tuesday, 2,154 migrants were brought to safety in the Strait of Sicily between Italy and north Africa, on top of the 1,850 rescued in the area on Monday, the coastguard said.

A vessel from the EU border agency Frontex and a Greek cargo ship assisted the Italian navy in conducting a total of 25 rescue operations involving 16 dinghies and a rowing boat, officials said.

All the passengers survived.

War-torn Libya is the main jump-off point for migrants trying to reach Europe from north Africa.

A spokesman for the Libyan navy said that country’s coastguard intercepted a further six inflatable boats carrying 649 migrants off Sabratha, near Libya’s border with Tunisia, on Tuesday.

On Monday, 115 migrants had been rescued by Libyan authorities after their boat got into trouble near the capital Tripoli.

The arrivals represent a sharp increase on the average daily numbers landing in Italy since the start of the year.

According to the United Nations, 19,900 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy so far this year, compared with 153,000 landing in Greece.

Calmer seas at the onset of spring are encouraging greater numbers of migrants to attempt the perilous crossing to Italy after a winter lull.

There are also concerns that European efforts to shut down the migrant sea crossing from Turkey to Greece will encourage more people to attempt the more dangerous Mediterranean passage from Libya to Italy.