Refugee crisis sees tensions rise along Greece's border with Macedonia

Tensions are rising on the Greek border with Macedonia, where 1,300 migrants have been left stranded in the town of Idomeni. Macedonia says it will turn away anyone who is not fleeing a war zone.

Tempers flare after Macedonia and other Balkan states block economic refugees

Police push back a group of migrants stalled at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, on Sunday. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters )

About 1,300 migrants gathered in the Greek town of Idomeni staged protests on the weekend against the decision by Macedonian authorities across the border to turn away migrants who are not from war zones such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most of the protesters came from Morocco, but some were also from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Congo.

Greek police officers carry away a woman as mostly Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees try to force their way through the Greek-Macedonian border. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)

'We are not terrorists'

During Saturday's demonstration, they demanded to be allowed in while some held signs or shouted slogans, such as "Freedom!" "'We are not terrorists" and "We are not going back."

It has emerged that two suicide bombers involved in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks took the same trail to western Europe as the latest migrants and refugees — arriving by boat in Greece and then travelling north across the Balkans. Most of the attackers, however, were citizens of France or Belgium.

A woman collapses during Sunday's demonstration. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)

Women, children overwhelmed

Greek police were called to guard the border, where the protests have been mostly peaceful, aside from some pushing against a line of officers. On Sunday, individuals could be seen trying to persuade police to let them pass, while others  withdrew from the border to set up tents a short distance away.

Macedonian authorities took the decision to exclude migrants from non-war countries earlier this week on the heels of similar action by Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. The excluded migrants have been camping in Idomeni for the past three days.

Migrants refer to the Paris attacks during Saturday's protest. (Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images)

'We are sorry, France'

Some became overwhelmed during scuffles with police on Sunday as people in the crowd tried to push their way toward the border with Macedonia.

A banner drawn by the Moroccans read: "We are sorry France, but we are not danger [sic] people. We need peace and a good life."

A Greek police officer carries away a child during one of the scuffles Sunday with migrants at the Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)

Conditions worsen

Greece's deputy interior minister, Yiannis Mouzalas, visited Idomeni on Saturday and said authorities would offer free bus travel back to Athens to those who were refused entry into Macedonia.

Conditions worsened on Sunday as temperatures dropped and a first smattering of snow fell.

A group of Iranians, blocked from entering Macedonia from Greece by barbed wire and rows of police, erected a banner on Sunday announcing a hunger strike.

Some tried to block the rail line running between the two countries.

With files from Reuters


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