Desperate refugees riot at Greece-Macedonia border

Angry refugees stranded at border rip open razor-wire barrier trying to enter Macedonia as guards fire tear gas.

Idomeni, Greece
A woman holds her children as they run away after Macedonian police fired tear gas [Giannis Papanikos/AP]

A riot broke out as hundreds of desperate refugees stranded at the Greece-Macedonia border smashed down a gate guarded by security forces on Monday.

The razor-wire barrier was ripped open and border guards fired tear gas in response.

Angry crowds shouted and pushed towards the barrier. Several men used a large steel post to ram the gate while trying to pry it open.   

Nearly 8,000 refugees are in limbo at the overcrowded border camp – with a capacity of 2,000 – at the village of Idomeni, according to Greek officials.

The Idomeni camp is rapidly turning into the main focal point in the largest migration crisis in Europe since World War II.

 Can Greece cope with the refugee crisis?

It was set up to shelter refugees as they wait for passage to Macedonia, which has greatly reduced the number of people allowed to pass in recent days.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Idomeni, said there was a rumour that the border crossing was opening, which brought hundreds rushing to the gate. 

“There was a state of panic and hope that finally those gates towards Western Europe would open. It’s an emotional roller-coaster for these refugees and migrants who are here,” she said.  

About 50 refugees were allowed into Macedona on Monday.

“The refugees are saying, ‘What we’ve seen here is going to divide opinion in Europe’,” Abdel Hamid reported. “It’s a completely different atmosphere at the moment from last year and they are aware of it. People are saying that ‘this is not going to help us. They will see this and we will not be welcome.'”

The situation at Idomeni camp, the main transit point for refugees travelling towards western Europe, continues to deteriorate.

Hundreds queued for hours for food at the camp on Greece’s northern border.

The people at the camp – mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many of them families with children – complained over lack of access to basic facilities such as toilets and food distribution points.

“The situation is, as you see, like a disaster and they don’t open the borders, Macedonia don’t open the borders, and people are coming more and more, so there is a very big number of people who have to wait for a long time in the food [line] and in the toilet,” said Hamsa, a Syrian refugee from Aleppo.


Tensions ran high and scuffles broke out among people queuing up for an indeterminately long wait before being considered for passage to Macedonia.

Struggling with limited resources to house migrants itself, Macedonia had briefly closed its border last week, only to re-open it but with much stricter controls, allowing only a few hundred people to pass through over the weekend.

“I am suffering here. I am slowly dying here. I don’t know what I’ll do,” said Abdullah, another Syrian man from Aleppo.

More than one million refugees and migrants passed through the camp in the previous 12 months, travelling from Turkey to Germany and other western European countries, where they hoped to secure asylum.

 Refugees stranded at Macedonia-Greece border

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies