Hundreds of migrants and refugees were injured on Sunday during a confrontation with police on the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Eyewitnesses say FYROM police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowds on the Greek side of the fence separating the two countries.
Crowds had gathered at the fence near the camp in Idomeni. A small group tried to talk with the Macedonian border officials. After refusing to open the border, the group became angry and tried to make their way towards the border. A Macedonian official said a large group of migrants left the camp and surged towards teh fence.
Aid workers say they have treated people for exposure to tear gas. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) a total of 300 people were treated for injuries, 30 of them with wounds from rubber-coated bullets, and 30 had open wounds. Two hundred had difficulty breathing due to tear gas, and MSF added that many children had respiratory problems from being teargassed.
Athens has condemned the police action, saying the use of force against migrants is unacceptable.
“The indiscriminate use of chemicals, rubber bullets and stun grenades against vulnerable populations, and particularly without reasons for such force, is a dangerous and deplorable act,” said George Kyritsis, a Greek government spokesman for migration coordination.
“We urge the authorities of FYROM to comprehend the potential risks the use of violence against refugees and migrants entails.” he went on.
Macedonian authorities have only confirmed the use of tear gas, not rubber bullets or stun grenades.
“They threw rocks at the Macedonian police. The police fired tear gas in response,” said a Macedonian official on condition of anonymity.
“The migrants were pushing against the fence but standing on the Greek side of the border. The fence is still there, they have not broken through.”
Cascading border closures on the so-called Balkan migration route has caused more than 10,000 people to be stranded on the Greek side of the Macedonian border. Greek authorities have urged the migrants and refugees to leave Idomeni camp and move to other reception centers, but many refuse to leave, in fears of missing their opportunity to continue on their journey to northern Europe.
By Catherine Hardy
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material.
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