Police use tear gas at Greece-Macedonia border

Macedonian police take extreme measures in attempt to hold back thousands of asylum seekers at border

Newstalk, Greece-Macedonia, Greece, Macedonia, border, tear gas, police, refugee, migrant, asylum seeker, Syria

A man helps children to run away after Macedonian police fired tear gas at a group of the refugees and migrants who tried to push their way into Macedonia today. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

 

Macedonian police have fired tear gas after migrants and refugees broke through a gate on the country's border with Greece.

Thousands of people have been stuck on the Greek side of the border as Macedonian officials allow only a trickle of people through each day.

Frustration boiled over today, with a few hundred people breaking through the gate, chanting "open the border" and throwing stones at Macedonian police, according to reports.

Police also used stun grenades to calm the crowd, Associated Press said, although there were no injuries or arrests reported.

Frustration builds

Around 6,500 people have been stuck at or near the border crossing at Idomeni in Greece, with another 500 at a makeshift camp on a small concrete strip around 13 miles away.

Macedonia has previously said it will only allow in as many people as neighbouring Serbia agrees to accept but this has left thousands of migrants stuck in Greece.

Some have been there for up to eight days with little food or shelter.

Around 300 Syrians and Iraqis were allowed through the crossing between Sunday and Monday, but then Macedonian guards refused to admit any more.

The backlog has also stretched to Greece, where officials say more than 22,000 people are stranded.

Austrian action blamed

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed Austria for the current build-up, after the country’s announcement that it would take no more than 80 asylum claims per day and cap the numbers of those seeking to cross the country.

This led to Macedonia refusing entry to Afghans and imposing stricter limits on Syrians and Iraqis, with Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia quickly following.

"Because Austria decided on a limit of 80 per day, and not one more, we have reached today's situation," she told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday, saying the move and its domino effect had abandoned Greece to "chaos".

She said: "Do you seriously believe that all the euro states that last year fought all the way to keep Greece in the eurozone - and we were the strictest - can one year later allow Greece to, in a way, plunge into chaos?"

But Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said the criticism was "absurd", adding: "Apparently for some, the European solution (to the crisis) is for all (migrants) to mass in Austria."