Hundreds of migrants stranded at Greece's northern border clashed with police Thursday while trying to force their way into Macedonia.

The migrants from Iran, Morocco, Pakistan and several other countries confronted Macedonian riot police who were seen hitting protesters with batons.

Macedonia toughened rules for crossings earlier this month, in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks, restricting access to citizens from countries typically granted asylum in Europe, including Syria and Afghanistan.

At least 10 people stranded at the border are on hunger strike and have sewn their mouths shut in protest. One of the hunger strikers fainted during the protest and was carried by to a medical tent set up by a charity organization.

An Iranian migrant who asked to be identified only by her first name, Sonya, said she was afraid to return to Iran after speaking out against authorities there.

"They are not letting us into Macedonia. I have tried to cross at several points, but the police were always there to stop us," she said.


During the clashes, a few migrants ran across into Macedonia but were quickly detained by police. Police in riot gear guarded some 30-40 metres of the fence which was torn down, and a Reuters photographer saw riot police armed with assault rifles. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

"I've been here for seven days and I'm going to keep trying to get across."

About 750 stranded migrants remained camped out near the border village of Idomeni, police said. They have staged daily demonstrations at the border, and have pitched their tents on a railway line, halting rail services between the Greek port of Thessaloniki and the Macedonian capital Skopje.

With many of its islands facing the coast of Turkey, Greece was the busiest entry point for migrants and refugees trying to reach northern Europe following a spike in new arrivals this year.

Struggling to cope with the high numbers of new arrivals, many Balkan countries relaxed transit rules over the summer as migrants headed to Germany and other countries northern Europe.

Greek police said 2,400 migrants had crossed into Macedonia in the 24 hours before 6 a.m. local time Thursday, down from the recent daily average of 3,500.

Tighter controls in Norway

Norwegian police and border officials have started checking identification papers of passengers arriving and leaving, in a move to stem the flow of asylum-seekers.

Macedonia Greece border

There have been clashes today near Idomeni, Greece, and Gevgelija, Macedonia, as Macedonia toughened rules for migrant crossings earlier this month, restricting access to citizens from countries typically granted asylum in Europe, including Syria and Afghanistan. (CBC)

The measures adopted Thursday are planned to last 10 days. They include checks on ferries arriving from Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Police have advised all travellers to carry proof of their identity, including if they are moving around in border regions.

Norway announced the tighter controls after neighbouring Sweden proposed tough measures to deal with a huge influx of migrants, expected to reach 200,000 by year's end — the highest proportionate rate in Europe. Norway expects 33,000 refugees this year, a threefold increase on 2014.

Finland, which has seen a tenfold increase in asylum-seekers this year to an expected 35,000, adopted ID checks and tighter border controls in September.


A migrant gestures in front of Macedonian police officers after trying to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near Gevgelija, Macedonia. (Stoyan Nenov/Reuters)

Renewed criticism of Czech president

Czech President Milos Zeman, known for his critical views of Islam, says Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is endangering the country by not fully recognizing the danger asylum-seekers are posing.

In an interview published in Thursday's edition of the Mlada Fronta daily, Zeman say that unlike the prime minister he considers the migrant wave "an organized invasion."

Sobotka previously dismissed Zeman's suggestion that migration is linked to terrorism. He said it is the terrorists from ISIS who have to be combated, not the refugees.

Sobotka and other members of his government on Thursday also renewed their criticism of Zeman for addressing a rally of his supporters organized by a major anti-Muslim group on Nov. 17, the 26th anniversary of the anti-communist Velvet Revolution.

In the interview, Zeman said he would do it again.