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news 22 Aug 15

Hundreds Break Through Police Line Into Macedonia

Hundreds of migrants and refugees ran through police lines at the southern border to enter Macedonia.

Meri Jordanovska

Police used stun grenades in attempt to stop the crowd pass the barbed wire but could not stop people running into fields across the border.It is unclear if people were injured in the chaos and how many escaped from the zone guarded by police.

Macedonian authorities, struggling with an unprecedented influx of refugees, many of them from Syria, declared emergency at the southern border and deployed police and army troops on Thursday.

Two trains with about 1000 people left Macedonia by noon on Saturday but thousands remained stranded at the border in the pouring rain. The train station was packed with people waiting to board trains north, many looking for their family members.

One man with his child insisted that he can not board the train as his wife is still in the border zone. Police officers explained he has to go, that his wife would be on the next train.

Another refugee, Mr. Usein, who is traveling from Syria with his three children before boarding a train to Serbia this morning told BIRN he has been between Greece and Macedonia for six days.

" Today they finally let us through. We are going to Germany where we have relatives."

Photo by Meri Jordanovska

The refugees see both Macedonia and Serbia only as transit routes to Western Europe, which is why Macedonia earlier relaxed controls on migrants, allowing them 72 hours to cross the country unhindered.

"We urge the (Macedonian) government to start opening the border again and prioritizing the most vulnerable, such as women, children and sick people," said Alexandra Krause, a senior protection officer with the UNHCR.

"There are around 3,000 people here and the numbers are rising," Krause told Reuters. "People are exhausted. It has rained all night and they had no shelter."

The Interior Ministry said it was deploying troops on the border with Greece in a last-ditch move to stem to flow of refugees into and across the country.

The aim was to enhance control of the border area, Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, explained on Thursday.

In the last two months, at least 42,000 foreign nationals have entered Macedonia on their way to Western Europe.

On Friday, Macedonian police fired stun grenades at crowds of refugees  to deter them from trying to enter the country.

Video footage showed at least several refugees being injured in chaotic scenes as asylum seekers fled the plumes of smoke and loud bangs.

The rights organisation Amnesty International condemned what it called the use of paramilitary measures to deter refugees.

Refugees waiting at the train station. Photo by Meri Jordanovska
For refugees Macedonia is only transit country to the EU. Photo by Meri Jordanovska
Refugees cue in line to board a train. Photo by Meri Jordanovska


Refugees board a train to Serbia on Saturday morning. Photo by Meri Jordanovska
Macedonia declared crisis at its southern border and deployed troops on Thursday. Photo by Meri Jordanovska
Refugees wait in the rain in the guarded zone. Photo by Meri Jordanovska
According to UNHCR some 3000 people remain in no man's land. Photo by Meri Jordanovska
Photo by Meri Jordanovska
Photo by Meri Jordanovska

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