Thousands of migrants are rushing across the Balkan state of Macedonia before a new razor wire topped fence is inaugurated on the Hungarian border with Serbia later this week, impeding their entry to the European Union.
The crowd is now so large that it has overwhelmed the Macedonian army, who are now powerless to stop them crossing from Greece. The country has declared a state of emergency along its border, but numbers continue to build.
Up to 3,000 people are now crossing into Macedonia each day, nearly all of them heading to the town of Gevgelija where they are crowding station as they try to board trains to Serbia. From there they hope to cross into the EU over the Hungarian border.
The Times spoke to several migrants at Gevgelija station. One, Mohammed Zain al Hudari from Syria, said: “My brother was held in a regime prison for two years and my wife and children are still in Syria. I paid $1,300 to a smuggler to get to Greece, and I just want to get through Macedonia and Serbia quickly so that I can get to Germany and bring them after me.”
Last week a cruise ship carried some 2,500 Syrian refugees from the islands of Kos and Lesbos to mainland Greece. It was initially due to dock in Thessaloniki, just an hour’s drive from the Macedonian border, but was diverted to Athens before the border was sealed.
Sayraan Bilali, 36, told the Times that she was shocked to end up in Athens after having paid for a ticket to Thessaloniki. “We had to pay again to get the train to Thessaloniki. Then we walked here. My shoes have worn through and last night I was soaked in the rain. We don’t have any more clothes.”