Police in Macedonia have fired tear gas at hundreds of refugees, injuring dozens of people who were trying to break a border fence and get into the Balkan state.
According to a Macedonian official, whose name has not been revealed, more than 500 refugees had gathered next to the fence at the Idomeni camp near Greece’s border with Macedonia on Sunday.
The clashes reportedly erupted after the crowd reacted to rumors that the border was about to open.
Although the Macedonian police denied rumors of border re-opening refugees in their hundreds, including children, tried to scale the fence.
“They threw rocks at the Macedonian police. The police fired tear gas in response,” the official said.
“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.”
“Dozens of people were hurt, mainly suffering respiratory problems, and three had to be taken to hospital,” said Achileas Tzemos, a senior official with the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Three Macedonian police officers were also reported to have been injured by stones thrown by the protesting refugees.
There are more than 11,200 people stranded at the Idomeni border crossing in northern Greece after the Balkan countries closed off the route in mid-February.
As part of an EU-Ankara deal, Greece has since April 4 started deporting to Turkey refugees who do not meet asylum-seeking criteria.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Nearly 175,800 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 700 people died in their journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of refugees from their home countries.