Tuesday 23 April 2019

Police fire tear gas at migrants at Greek border

Scuffles: Riot police clash with migrants in Diavata. Photo: AP
Scuffles: Riot police clash with migrants in Diavata. Photo: AP

Lefteris Papadimas

Greek police fired tear gas yesterday to disperse migrants who had gathered in a field near the country's border with Northern Macedonia in the hope of making their way illegally up through the Balkans toward northern Europe.

Hundreds have made their way to the field in the village of Diavata since Thursday, galvanised by reports on social media of plans for an organised movement to cross Greece's north-west border with Albania in early April.

Separately, migrants holed up in Turkey were heading toward that country's border with Greece following false rumours that Ankara had opened its border gate. Turkish authorities have detained nearly 1,200 migrants there, Turkish media reported.

By yesterday morning, migrants had set up more than 100 tents in the field at Diavata. A crowd trying to make its way towards the Greek border scuffled with police who responded with tear gas. TV footage showed shrubs burning nearby.

"It's a lie that the borders will open," Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas told state television, urging migrants to return to their accommodation centres.

In Athens, a group of about 50 migrants squatted on the tracks of the capital's main railway station shouting "Germany!" and "Open the borders." Several more were at the station under heavy police presence. Services from the station were suspended.

The situation revived memories of the 2015 migrant crisis, when more than one million people, mostly fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, travelled via Turkey, Greece and the Balkans toward western Europe.

Irish Independent

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