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Tear gas fired as migrants try to storm Greece-Macedonia border fence

The UN’s rights chief criticised a “rising roar of xenophobia” towards migrants.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

HUNDREDS OF REFUGEES were tear gassed as they tried to break through a border fence into Macedonia from Greece, where more than 7,000 people are stranded, as anger mounts over barriers to entry imposed on migrants flooding into Europe.

In a sign of deepening divisions within Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel lashed out at Austria and Balkan states for introducing tight limits on migrant entries, leaving Greece with a growing bottleneck as refugee boats continue to arrive from Turkey.

And Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov warned that once Austria reaches its cap of a maximum 37,500 migrants transiting through this year, the refugee route through the Balkans will have to close.

Macedonia Migrants Source: AP/Press Association Images

At Idomeni on the frontier, Macedonian police fired tear gas as some 300 migrants forced their way through a Greek police cordon and raced towards a railway track between the two countries.

“Open the borders!” they shouted as a group of men used a metal signpost to bring down a section of barbed wire fencing, prompting police to fire volleys of tear gas and block them from crossing.

At least 30 people, many of them children, requested first aid in the stampede that ensued, the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said. Authorities said a Macedonian policeman had also been hurt and had to be hospitalised.

The protest occurred several hours after Macedonia allowed just 300 Syrians and Iraqis to cross.

Macedonia Migrants Refugees and migrants who entered Macedonia illegally and were detained by the police, wait to be returned to Greece at a checkpoint on the border line. Source: AP/Press Association Images

With Austria and Balkan states capping the numbers of migrants entering their soil, there has been a swift build-up along the Greece-Macedonia border with Athens warning that the number of people “trapped” could reach up to 70,000 in March.

The UN’s rights chief criticised a “rising roar of xenophobia” towards migrants.

“To keep building higher walls against the flight of these desperate people is an act of cruelty and a delusion,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

- © AFP, 2016 

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