Aid workers assisting thousands of migrant refugees trying to cross into Macedonia have told media that security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to push them back. There were reports that stun grenades were also used, but these have not been independently verified.
Several refugees were injured in the melee; video footage showed some with broken noses and bloodied legs, allegedly from rubber bullets.
Cash-strapped Macedonia has declared a state of emergency as it says it is being overwhelmed by an increased influx of refugees, mainly families fleeing the carnage in Syria and Iraq, making their way from Greece into Europe.
According to Macedonian authorities, some 44,000 refugees crossed into Macedonia in the past two months. The military is expected to deploy soldiers to the northern and southern border areas to help “reduce the number of people crossing to a minimum”.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov defended the emergency measures at the borders and said that the refugee issue is part of a greater regional and international crisis. He said that his government has been closely following the measures taken by other European countries and following suit.
Last week, riot units and security reinforcements were deployed to the Greek resort island of Kos after tensions a day earlier flared into violence as police forced refugees into a football stadium where they were to be registered.
Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), who had been administering aid to the more than 2,000 refugees in the stadium, said that they had no food or water and were fainting from the heat.
Greek authorities appropriated a cruise liner with a capacity to house some 2,500 people to be used instead as a processing center for the thousands of refugees who continue to risk death and dehydration to cross from the Libyan coastline to Europe.
Athens says that more than 125,000 migrant refugees have landed on Greek shores since the beginning of the year.
While Macedonia and Greece do not have a coordinated border response, France and the UK have moved forward with plans to jointly crack down on human smuggling rings in Europe. Members of the UK Border Force will be deployed on French soil; London will also help finance the management of refugees in the coastal region of Calais – a major departure point for the UK.
Security and monitoring will also be enhanced at the Eurotunnel.
The refugee crisis in Europe, the worst since World War II, has consistently made headlines since a boat carrying Syrian and Eritrean migrants capsized killing 800 in April.
European ministers have met a number of times to create a united approach to double search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean, destroy boats and vessels known to be used to smuggle desperate migrants from North Africa to Italy, and pursue and break up the human trafficking rings.
European countries are still struggling to reach consensus on relocating many of the refugees reaching Greece and Italy.
On Thursday, Germany called on other European nations to do more to take in refugees. The interior ministry said that it expects 800,000 refugees to land in Germany by the end of the year.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that Germany can handle the rapidly rising influx but believes Europe should do more to accommodate desperate peoples fleeing war and strife.
“Germany cannot, on a permanent basis, take on 40 percent of all refugees that arrive in Europe,” he said.
“This is unacceptable and a disgrace for Europe,” he added.
The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies