Migrants on the border between Greece and Macedonia have rioted, lit fires, charged police and attempted to block a railway during a protest demanding open borders. Police responded with tear gas.
The camp on the border village of Idomeni has become home to around 10,000 migrants, more than four months after the Balkans route into northern Europe was shut off. Greek officials have recently announced their plans to evict the camp.
Migrants have repeatedly blocked the nearby train tracks in protest, sometimes using their own young children to block the tracks. As they moved to do the same again last night the police stepped in. Pitch battles ensued:
— Jeanne Carstensen (@jcarstensen) May 18, 2016
A pro-migrant volunteer from the Fire in Action group told Elboletin:
“The migrants said they intended to leave… objects on the train tracks… Refugees tried to negotiate with police to avoid eviction, although the police continued to stress their intention to carry out the removal.”
According to Elboletin, the police also had to stop left wing “volunteers from accessing certain areas of the field”:
— Jayme (@Mallory5555) May 19, 2016
The migrants in Ideomeni have repeatedly resisted being sent to the new official camps, which have electricity and running water, as they do not want to be registered and plan to illegally break across the border.
In late March, Ankara and Brussels agreed to close the so-called Balkan route, along which during the past year over one million migrants traveled through Greece and Macedonia to the other European Union (EU) member states in the north.
According to the agreement, in exchange for financial and political favours, Turkey pledged to take back all the “irregular” migrants who cross into the EU from its borders.
Brussels will provide €3 billion in aid to Ankara for the more than two million Syrian migrants residing in Turkey, with the option to increase aid by an additional €3 billion.
Turkey also expects visa liberalisation for its 80 million citizens traveling within the EU by June and fast tracked accession into the EU, one of its long-standing goals.