Macedonia finishes fence, sparks clashes at Greek border

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published 01.12.2015 00:00

Macedonia on Sunday finished building a fence on its frontier with Greece becoming the latest country in Europe to build a border barrier aimed at checking the flow of migrants.

A 3-kilometer-long metal fence was erected by the army at the Gevgelija crossing, on the main road north from the Greek city of Thessaloniki to Macedonia's capital Skopje. For the time being the fence is not being erected at other locations, but Macedonian officials did not rule out such a possibility in the future.

The building of the 2.5-metre-high fence, which started on Saturday, sparked clashes between angry migrants and police. On Saturday, a group of migrants trying to enter Macedonia pelted the police with stones while officers fired stun grenades in their direction

Several police and army vehicles were damaged and 18 police officers were slightly injured in the protests. The situation later calmed down and was calm Sunday, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

A Macedonian government spokesman said earlier the fence was aimed at ensuring migrants did not try to slip across the frontier undetected, without going through the checkpoint. The border will remain open and only people who are not from war-affected regions will not be allowed to cross, spokesman Aleksandar Gjorgjev told AFP.

Since the summer some central and southeastern European countries had begun tightening their borders to check the influx - a trend that has been accelerated by the Nov. 13 shooting and suicide attacks in Paris. Two of the attackers slipped into Europe through Greece posing as refugees from Syria's civil war, according to French prosecutors.

Since then, countries along the migrant route through the Balkans have tightened restrictions on migrants, allowing entry only to those fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Macedonia was taking a similar tack and the move had sparked protests from migrants that have been turned away.

From Macedonia the refugees generally travel further north to Serbia and then back into the European Union via Croatia and Slovenia before arriving at their destination in Austria, Germany, Sweden or other western European countries.

In August, Hungary built a 4-meter fence along its border with Serbia in response to the refugee influx. In October, it also completed a fence alongside its border with Croatia in south. In November, after Slovenia found itself on the main Balkans route for the thousands of migrants who are landing in Greece, it also began rolling out razor wire along the border with Croatia.

The majority of migrants come from the Middle East and Africa. The turmoil in the Middle East and the five-year war in Syria have led many people to flee the conflict in an attempt to seek security and shelter in a more prosperous and peaceful country, such as one in Europe. However, Europe has been slammed for lacking a collaborative response to the crisis.

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