Clashes as Macedonia becomes latest migrant crisis flashpoint

Clashes as Macedonia becomes latest migrant crisis flashpoint
# 22 August 2015 01:51 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Macedonian riot police on Friday fired stun grenades to drive back thousands of mostly Syrian refugees stuck in no-man's land between Greece and Macedonia, the latest flashpoint in Europe's escalating migrant crisis, APA reports quoting AFP.

At least eight people were hurt near the Greek border village of Edomeni as the police in riot gear beat the migrants back with truncheons and threw the stun grenades, devices that produce a blinding flash of light and a huge noise to disorient their targets.

The grenades set off clouds of smoke, sending panicked refugees running for cover. Some were injured as they fell to the ground; one youth's face was covered in blood.

Rights group Amnesty International blasted the police response, saying it had received reports that officers fired into the air in "an unacceptable push-back in violation of international law".

Macedonia had on Thursday declared a state of emergency and sealed the border, stranding more than 3,000 mostly Syrian refugees who are hoping to travel onwards to northern Europe and start a new life.

But after tensions boiled over on Friday, Macedonia said it would allow a limited number of "vulnerable" migrants to enter and some 500 refugees were able to cross the border, mostly families with children and pregnant women.

In Brussels, the European Commission defended itself against charges that the EU is responding too slowly to Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU's Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner, insisted the commission had been working "day and night" to offer funding and other support to states struggling to cope with the influx of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had said Thursday that it was "unacceptable that European institutions continue to work at their current slow pace" in finding a joint solution to the crisis.