Macedonian Police Fire Tear Gas to Stop Migrants, UNHCR Says


Migrants run away from tear-gas fired by Macedonian police in Idomeni, on Feb. 29.

Photographer: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images
  • Group of migrants swells to about 8,000 from 6,000 on Sunday
  • Macedonian Republic's, Greek police meet to solve crisis

Police in Macedonia fired tear gas to stop a group of about 5,000 migrants from entering the country from Greece after the former Yugoslav Republic and its neighbors cut the number of refugees they’ll accept crossing their borders.

The group was pushed back after some broke through a fence at the border and one officer was injured, national police spokeswoman Dejana Nedeljkovic said by phone from Skopje on Monday. Officials from both countries are now meeting to try to find a solution to how to handle the thousands of people trying to cross Greece and the western Balkans from Turkey to seek better lives in richer European Union nations, said Igor Ciobanu, senior field coordinator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Macedonia joined its northern Balkan neighbors and Austria this weekend by cutting the number of refugees it’s allowing to enter, crimping the main route of people fleeing war and poverty in northern Africa and the Middle East. Greece warned on Thursday that countries shutting their borders to the north would trigger a humanitarian crisis as more refugees arrive on its shores. The number of those trying to traverse Greece’s northern border swelled to about 8,000 on Monday, from 6,000 earlier, Ciobanu said by phone.

Slovenia and Croatia both said last week they’ll accept only about 500 refugees a day, a fraction of the thousands of people who’ve been crossing the countries’ borders daily. The closures underscore the EU’s struggle to solve its worst migration crisis since World War II. Leaders from the 28-member bloc will hold a summit next month to try to forge a strategy to deal with the crisis and avoid having to curtail Schengen, its visa-free travel zone.

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