More than 100 migrants engaged in running battles Wednesday with Macedonian police on the other side of a fence on Greece's border with the country, in clashes that sent clouds of tear gas wafting over a crowded tent city of stranded refugees and other migrants. The violence stopped a planned tour of the border fence in Macedonia by the visiting presidents of Croatia and Slovenia. No injuries were reported from the clashes at the closed Idomeni crossing, while Greek riot police monitoring the stone-throwing migrants on their side of the fence made no arrests, did little to intervene and retreated during the tear-gas barrage.
Macedonian police fired scores of tear gas canisters, stun grenades and rubber bullets at the protesters, who had earlier tried to scale the border fence using blankets issued by humanitarian groups to get over coils of razor wire. Many of the canisters were neutralized by blankets and earth thrown over them by the protesters. About 11,000 people have been living in the informal camp for weeks, since Macedonia closed its border to transient refugees and other migrants hoping to move north towards Europe's prosperous heartland. Before the shutdown, which was triggered by a similar move in Austria, further north on the migration corridor, about 850,000 people who had arrived in Greece on smugglers' boats had entered Macedonia from Idomeni. The camp residents mostly Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees have ignored repeated calls from Greek authorities to relocate to organized camps, and attempted several mass incursions into Macedonia in recent weeks, trying to bypass the fence or break through it.
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.