Macedonian security forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse dozens of refugees who were trying to pull down a fence at Greece’s border with Macedonia and enter the Balkan country.
The incident erupted on Wednesday as about 100 refugees attempted to take down the fence, which has been set up to keep them from entering Macedonia on their way to wealthier European countries.
However, the demonstrators swiftly pulled back when Greek riot police moved in and positioned themselves between the refugees and the fence.
The incident happened just a few hundred meters away from where Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov was present to visit a refugee reception center with his Croatian and Slovenian counterparts.
Also on Sunday, Macedonian police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of refugees who were trying to break through the fence at the Greek border.
Nearly 300 refugees were wounded and reportedly treated in the field clinic of a medical charity group near the Idomeni crossing.
The violent clashes reportedly erupted after the crowd reacted to rumors that the border was about to open.
Reacting to the violence, the UN refugee agency on Monday strongly denounced the use of tear gas by Macedonian police against refugees.
Adrian Edwards, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement that the use of tear gas by Macedonian police against refugees on the border with Greece tarnishes Europe’s image, adding, “People get hurt and property is damaged. Harm is done to perceptions of refugees and to Europe’s image alike. Everyone loses.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also condemned the incident, saying that neighboring Macedonia had shamed the entire continent by using “tear gas and rubber bullets” to disperse hundreds of refugees at the Idomeni makeshift camp.
As part of an EU-Ankara deal, Greece has itself been deporting “irregular” refugees to Turkey since April 4.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
There are about 11,000 people stranded at the Idomeni border crossing in northern Greece as neighboring Balkan countries have closed off entry points since mid-February.