Macedonian troops fire flash­bangs at bor­der mi­grants

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY DUSAN STO­JANOVIC

Macedonian spe­cial po­lice forces fired stun grenades Fri­day to dis­perse thou­sands of mi­grants stuck on a no-man’s land with Greece, a day af­ter declar­ing a state of emer­gency on its bor­der to deal with a mas­sive in­flux of mi­grants head­ing north to the Euro­pean Union.

A crowd of 3,000 mi­grants who spent night out in the open made sev­eral at­tempts Fri­day to charge Macedonian po­lice af­ter the bor­der was shut to cross­ings the pre­vi­ous day. At least eight peo­ple were in­jured in the melee, ac­cord­ing to Greek po­lice.

One young­ster was bleed­ing from what ap­peared to be shrap­nel from the stun grenades that were fired di­rectly into the crowd.

Po­lice backed by ar­mored ve­hi­cles also spread coils of ra­zor wire over rail tracks used by mi­grants to cross on foot from Greece to Mace­do­nia.

The mi­grants, many with ba­bies and young chil­dren, spent the chilly and windy night in a dust field with­out food and with lit­tle wa­ter. Some ate corn they picked from nearby fields.

“I don’t know why are they do­ing this to us,” said Mo­ham­mad Wahid of Iraq. “I don’t have pass­port or iden­tity doc­u­ments. I can­not re­turn and have nowhere to go. I will stay here till the end.”

Greece has seen an un­prece­dented wave of mi­grants this year, the vast ma­jor­ity flee­ing war and con­flict in Syria and Afghanistan. More than 160,000 have ar­rived so far, mostly cross­ing in in­flat­able dinghies from the nearby Turk­ish coast — an in­flux that has over­whelmed Greek author­i­ties and the coun­try’s small Aegean is­lands.

Yet few, if any, of the mi­grants ar­riv­ing want to re­main in Greece, a coun­try in the grip of a fi­nan­cial cri­sis. The vast ma­jor­ity head straight to the coun­try’s north­ern bor­der with Mace­do­nia, where they cram onto trains and head north through Ser­bia and Hungary on their way to the more pros­per­ous EU coun­tries such Ger­many, the Nether­lands and those in Scan­di­navia.

Macedonian po­lice spokesman Ivo Kotevski said both po­lice and the army would con­trol the 50-kilo­me­ter (30-mile) bor­der stretch to stop a “mas­sive” in­flux of mi­grants com­ing from Greece.

“This mea­sure is be­ing in­tro­duced for the se­cu­rity of cit­i­zens who live in the bor­der ar­eas and for bet­ter treat­ment of the mi­grants,” he said Thurs­day.

Un­til now, the bor­der has been por­ous, with only a few pa­trols on each side. Seal­ing it disrupts the Balkan cor- ri­dor for mi­grants who start in Tur­key, take boats to Greece or walk to Bulgaria, then make their way through Mace­do­nia or Ser­bia head­ing north to the EU.

Al­most 39,000 mi­grants, most of them Syr­i­ans, have reg­is­tered as pass­ing through Mace­do­nia over the past month, dou­ble the num­ber from the month be­fore.

“We want to go to Ger­many to find a new life be­cause ev­ery­thing has been de­stroyed in Syria,” said Amina As­mani of Syria, hold­ing her hus­band’s hand and watch­ing her 10-day-old son, who was born on a Greek is­land dur­ing her jour­ney.

AP

A mi­grant boy eats corn near the bor­der train sta­tion of Idomeni, north­ern Greece, as he waits to be al­lowed by the Macedonian po­lice to cross the bor­der from Greece to Mace­do­nia, Fri­day, Aug. 21.

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