Desperate migrants refuse to leave border

December 5, 2015 5:18 am

 

Migrants try to keep warm by a bonfire near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija. Photo / AP

“We will all die here. We are not leaving.” Abdul points to the
lifeless body of a fellow Moroccan who electrocuted himself yesterday by
grabbing high-voltage train cables on the Greek border with Macedonia.
Police believe he did it intentionally, growing increasingly desperate after days trapped on the border.
Holding
the man’s body, a group of Moroccan men moved towards the border
crossing with cries of “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest). Greek police
fired tear gas to push them back.
“We have been here for five
days,” said Mohammed, also Moroccan. “We have no food and we are cold.
Why won’t they let us through? Aren’t we human? We are not terrorists.”
With
Macedonian authorities only letting through refugees from Syria, Iraq
and Afghanistan, migrants from other countries have been blocked on the
border with Greece for days, some of them for weeks.
Their anger
boiled over yesterday. Groups of migrants seized communal tents operated
by humanitarian agencies and destroyed some prefab houses set up by the
United Nations refugee agency.

Aid workers were told to quickly relocate to a safe distance.
“We
were attacked at dawn. Our safety was in jeopardy, so we decided to
move out and see how the situation evolves,” said Antonis Rigas, head of
the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) mission to the area.
“International
organisations and NGOs are advised not to enter the camp for security
reasons,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
Police
say there are more than 3000 so-called economic migrants from Iran,
Morocco, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the area, in addition to more than
2500 Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.
Trains between Greece and
Macedonia have been blocked for days by Iranians occupying the railway
tracks in protest at being blocked from moving towards western .
IOM said leaflets had been handed out advising the migrants to leave
within three days.
Another fight broke out when some migrants
blocked the passage of refugees entitled to pass. Riot police were
rushed in after rival groups began throwing stones at each other.
“We
are not economic migrants, we have money,” said Omid, a 35-year-old
Iranian who was part of the border protest. “I am Christian and in
danger here. There are Muslims shouting ‘jihad’ and ‘kill for Allah’.
This morning they attacked us with stones and crowbars.”
The
authorities sent in two trains and buses, encouraging people with no
hope of crossing the border to turn back to Athens and Thessaloniki –
but only about 120 agreed to leave.
The UN refugee agency says
895,000 migrants have travelled to Europe by boat this year and more
than 3500 have died in the water.
Since the northern summer,
several European countries have tightened their borders to check the
influx – a trend that has been accelerated by the November 13 attacks in
Paris.
Two of the attackers slipped into Europe through Greece
posing as refugees from Syria’s civil war, according to French
prosecutors.

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