Migrants confronted Macedonia police on Sunday when they were prevented from crossing the border fence near the town of Idomeni, and recent reports have surfaced claiming that hundreds of travelers were injured.
Macedonian police used tear gas, stun grenades, plastic bullets and a water cannon to drive away the flood of migrants. Some migrants responded to the attack by throwing rocks. Greek police observed from their side of the frontier but did not interfere.
Clashes continued in the afternoon as migrant groups attempted to divert the Macedonian security twice. The increasing use of tear gas reached families in their nearby tents in Idomeni’s makeshift camp. Many camp dwellers, chiefly women and children, fled into farm fields to escape the painful aftermath of the conflict.
Observers held out hope that evening rainfall, which began about seven hours into the clashes, would curb the conflicts. The aid agency Doctors Without Borders estimated that their medical volunteers on site treated about 300 people for various injuries. Achilleas Tzemos, deputy field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders, told the AP that the injured included about 200 experiencing breathing problems from the gas, 100 others with cuts, bruises and impact injuries from nonlethal plastic bullets. He said six of the most seriously injured were hospitalized. Macedonian police said 23 members of the country’s security forces were injured, including 14 police officers and nine soldiers. Five of the police officers had relatively grave injuries.
A five-member migrant delegation approached Macedonian police to ask whether the border would be opening. When Macedonian police replied that it would not, more than 100, including several children, tried to ascend the fence. Greece condemned the Macedonian police response as “excessive.” Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for the government’s special commission on refugees said the Idomeni campers should “not believe the false rumors spread by criminally irresponsible individuals and to cooperate with Greek authorities that guarantee their safe transfer to organized temporary hospitality locations.”
Many migrants in the surrounding area were confused about the causes of the event, and have since then refrained from accepting European help. “Europe tells everyone to come, but Macedonia has shut down its borders,” said Hassan Mohamed, a 19-year-old Kurd from Aleppo, Syria, who has been at the Idomeni camp for two months alongside his mother, sister and brother.
Abd Ahmad, 27, an Iraqi Kurd who is traveling with his wife and their 1-year-old daughter, said life in the Idomeni camp was “difficult for the child” — but was a been environment than that of his home country. He said Islamic State militants killed a 7-year-old sister and 11-year-old brother in Iraq, while another brother already had reached Germany and another sister was in Finland. He had high hopes that the Macedonian security would eventually let them pass.