EU: Limited number of refugees cross into Macedonia

3rd Mar 2016
EU: Limited number of refugees cross into Macedonia

By Vasiliki Mitsiniotou

 

ATHENS (AA) – Thousands of refugees remained on the Greek-Macedonian border on Wednesday, Greek police said, despite Macedonian authorities intermittently opening the frontier.

Around 9,000 refugees are waiting around Idomeni, many without proper shelter, to cross into Macedonia and continue their journey north into Europe.

Greek police said around 240 crossed on Wednesday as Macedonian border guards opened the gates for a few hours at a time. A bottleneck of around 25,000 refugees has built up in Greece as countries on the Balkans route have followed Austria’s lead and imposed restrictions on refugees crossing their territory.

Hundreds of refugees, including women and children, are arriving in Greece from Turkey every day, many having fled a recent government offensive in northern Syria.

More than 120,000 refugees have crossed the Aegean Sea since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration, leading to Greece requesting 480 million euros ($522 million) in emergency funds from the EU for supplies and personnel.

On Wednesday, the European Commission proposed an initial 700 million-euro relief fund to cover the cost of caring for refugees between now and 2018, the Athenian-Macedonian Press Agency reported.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appealed to common European values in dealing with the crisis.

“There can be no united Europe without absolute respect in common struggles and values but also on shared responsibilities and shared commitments,” he said. “We must face the difficulties together. We will succeed together or fail together.”

Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas said the numbers of refugees could be managed. “Do not panic,” he told a meeting of leaders from Greek regions. “The problem is manageable. This is an extraordinary event and time is needed for its final resolution.”

Across Greece, transit camps are full and refugees are camping in Athens’ main square as around 2,000 arrive every day from Turkey.

Meanwhile, 267 refugees from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were returned to Turkey from Greece over the last two days, according to Turkish officials.

The Directorate General of Migration Management said they re-entered Turkey by the Ipsala border post in Edirne province.

They were returned under a 2002 readmission deal between Turkey and Greece and face deportation to their home countries.

 

[Photo: Refugees are seen on a railway at Macedonia – Greece border in Gevgelija, Macedonia on March 1, 2016. Photographer: Besar Ademi/AA]

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