Three refugees drown trying to cross river into Macedonia

Published March 14th, 2016 - 03:30 GMT
A child wrapped in a survival blanket looks as migrants queue for hot soup on March 13, 2016, in a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni, where thousands of refugees and migrants are stranded by the Balkan border blockade. (AFP/Daniel Mihailescu)
A child wrapped in a survival blanket looks as migrants queue for hot soup on March 13, 2016, in a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni, where thousands of refugees and migrants are stranded by the Balkan border blockade. (AFP/Daniel Mihailescu)

At least three refugees have died while trying to swim a river near the Greece-Macedonia border to enter the Balkan state.  

A police spokeswoman in Macedonia said on Monday that they found the bodies of two men and a woman in the Suva Reka river earlier in the day.

"The case is under investigation, but so far it looks like they drowned while trying to enter Macedonia illegally," said Natalija Spirova Kordic, Macedonia interior ministry spokeswomen.

Police also said authorities helped some 23 other refugees in the river and took them to a refugee camp in Macedonia.

Over 14,000 refugees, including children, are stranded on the Greek side of the border after Macedonia closed the border, which was the main route for refugees to reach western Europe.

Europe is facing its biggest refugee crisis since World War Two. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East have trekked across the Balkans route from Greece to northern Europe.

Balkan states, in return, have adopted harsh measures to control the flow of refugees. Last week, Slovenia and Croatia banned the transit of most refugees through their countries.

Macedonia also imposed new restrictions, allowing refugees only from cities that are at war, such as Syria’s northern city of Aleppo.

Earlier this month, Slovenia’s parliament passed a bill that simplifies the rejection process for refugees from certain countries, limits the appeal process in case of a rejection and also reduces financial aid for refugees and their families if the latter are also accepted.

This came as EU and Turkey have drafted a proposal to stop the refugee flow to Europe. Ankara agreed to take back all refugees who land on Greece’s islands. In return for every refugee Turkey takes, the bloc would resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkish camps.

The proposal sparked concerns among human rights organizations and UN agencies.

On Sunday, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said the plan is morally and legally “flawed”.


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