Barbed wire wel­comes refugees to Mace­do­nia

The China Post - - LIFE - BY VAS­SILIS KYRIAKOULIS

For the 3,000 refugees and mi­grants stuck on Greece’s bor­der with Mace­do­nia, be­ing beaten back vi­o­lently by po­lice on Fri­day was just the latest in­dig­nity in a gru­el­ing jour­ney to new lives in Europe.

The crowds, most of them Syr­i­ans, were stranded near the Greek vil­lage of Edomeni af­ter Mace­do­nia de­clared a state of emer­gency on Thurs­day and sealed the bor­der, hop­ing to stem the flow of peo­ple try­ing to cross the small Balkan coun­try on their way to north­ern Europe.

As hun­dreds tried to cross newly laid rolls of barbed wire along the fron­tier on Fri­day, Macedonian of­fi­cers beat them back with night stick and lobbed stun grenades, set­ting off blind­ing flashes and huge bangs.

Pan­icked refugees ran for cover as smoke spewed from the grenades. Women screamed, cradling their chil­dren in their arms.

In the chaos, some of the refugees fell to the ground; one young man had a face cov­ered in blood. Greek po­lice said eight peo­ple were in­jured.

‘We are hunted in Syria’

Ja­cob, a Syr­ian Chris­tian who fled per­se­cu­tion at home, was one of many whose frus­tra­tions spilled over as he was forced to wait at the bor­der.

“We are hunted in Syria be­cause we are Chris­tian. They wanted to kill us. Why won’t they let us through here?” he asked.

A makeshift camp has sprung up at Edomeni, with whole fam­i­lies squeez­ing into small tents at night, light­ing fires to keep warm. Oth­ers have been sleep­ing on the nearby rail­way track or in­side train car­riages.

Many have sought ac­com­mo­da­tion in the vil­lage, but all the ho­tels are full.

“I will pay any price to get to a ho­tel,” said a 42-year-old man, hold­ing his 6-year-old son by the hand.

Given

the

size

of

the crowd, nearby fa­cil­i­ties are des­per­ately in­ad­e­quate — there are only five por­ta­ble toi­lets, and a few vol­un­teers pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance.

“We are very an­gry be­cause the po­lice had told us they would let us through to­day. We are not an­i­mals,” Jad, a 25-year-old Syr­ian, told AFP. Like so many oth­ers, he ar­rived in Greece via the tourist is­land of Les­bos, and has been stuck at Edomeni for three days.

Rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said many of those on the bor­der needed med­i­cal at­ten­tion, with some show­ing signs of war wounds.

Sup­plies in the lit­tle vil­lage are run­ning low, though a small gro­cery store is cash­ing in by stay­ing open 24 hours a day, of­fer­ing tins of food.

“What can they do? They seek a bet­ter life. Ev­ery day I see women with small chil­dren cry­ing,” said a lo­cal vil­lager.

The Ger­man c on­sul to Greece’s sec­ond city Thes­sa­loniki, Ingo von Voss, ar­rived a few hours af­ter the vi­o­lence broke out, say­ing he wanted to hear about the sit­u­a­tion and re­port back to his gov­ern­ment.

“This is nei­ther a Greek nor a Euro­pean prob­lem. It is a global prob­lem,” he said.

Refugees here say they only want to pass through Mace­do­nia — most are hop­ing to even­tu­ally reach Ger­many or Swe­den.

“Peo­ple used to travel to­wards wa­ter to sur­vive. Now they fol­low money. This is why I want to go to Ger­many to work and live like a hu­man be­ing,” says Ab­dul, from Pak­istan.

AP

(Above) Sil­hou­ettes of mi­grants are seen walk­ing along a rail­way bridge, af­ter en­ter­ing into Mace­do­nia from Greece on their way to­ward the EU, near the south­ern Macedonian town of Gevgelija, Fri­day, Aug. 21. (Right) Three mi­grant boys wait for the rest of their fam­ily to en­ter into Mace­do­nia from Greece, on the bor­der with Greece, near the south­ern Macedonian town of Gevgelija, Fri­day.

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