Refugees 'beaten and abused' in Macedonia

Rights group says elderly and children physically and verbally abused at border with Greece and at a detention centre.

    Macedonia is a key transit point for refugees moving north towards the European Union [File:Reuters]
    Macedonia is a key transit point for refugees moving north towards the European Union [File:Reuters]

    A new report has accused the police in Macedonia of violence and ill-treatment of refugees streaming into the country on their way to northern Europe.

    In a report released on Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Macedonian officials of physically and verbally abusing refugees at the border with Greece.

    Police guards are also accused of ill-treatment of refugees at the Gazi Baba detention centre between June 2014 and July 2015, and the failure of the authorities to investigate or hold those responsible to account. 


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    "It's plain to see that Macedonia has a problem with police violence against asylum seekers and migrants," said Emina Cerimovic of HRW.

    The report said refugees were forced to run between lines of officers hitting them with batons "on their backs, shoulders, and heads".

    In the report, refugees also described being beaten with police batons, punched, kicked, and verbally abused when police apprehended them.

    Macedonia is a key transit point for refugees moving north towards the European Union.

    The landlocked Balkan state is a candidate for membership in the European Union, which is continuing to grapple with the refugee crisis.

    'They are overruning us'

    Meanwhile, EU-member state Hungary approved legislation on Monday giving its army and police sweeping new powers to keep refugees out, as populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe was being "overrun".

    "They are overrunning us. They're not just banging on the door, they're breaking the door down on top of us," the right-wing Orban told parliament members.

    Macedonian authorities beat refugees trying to cross border

    The new legislation, passed with a two-thirds majority, allows the army to use "coercive weapons designed to cause bodily harm, although in a non-lethal way, unless it cannot be avoided".

    The police meanwhile will be able to enter private homes for the purpose of carrying out a search for refugees who entered the country illegally, among other new powers.

    At Hungary's border with Croatia on Monday, about 500 refugees disembarked from the buses on the Croatian side.

    The refugees then walked towards the Beremend crossing into Hungary, where adults and children alike were checked by Hungarian soldiers.


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    On Wednesday, Hungary will be joining other European leaders in a summit to discuss the handling of refugees. 

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he fears the meeting could end in discord.

    Also on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to do everything to resolve the redistribution of refugees by consensus, rather than simply outvoting European Union partners.

    Merkel said "there cannot and will not be a solution overnight" to the crisis and that more meetings will be needed.

    In Poland, Lech Walesa, a former president, said refugees must be ready to respect the rules and religion in the predominantly Catholic country, if they are to be accepted.

    The Nobel Peace Prize winner said a set of rules for admission is needed because with time the refugees will "demand space for themselves and we will have religious, social and all other problems".

    The European Union wants Poland to accept some 12,000 refugees.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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