Macedonia Struggles to Ration Entry of Immigrants

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Police and soldiers deployed along Macedonia’s southern border with Greece struggled on Saturday to control the numbers of refugees and migrants, many of them fleeing Middle East conflicts, seeking to reach western Europe.

Conditions on the frontier were rapidly deteriorating after the migrants — escaping wars inSyria, Iraq and beyond — spent a cold night under open skies, drenched by heavy rain and with little or no access to food or water.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR urged Macedonia to reopen its border and to provide more help to the vulnerable.

Macedonia says it must ration entry to control a tide that hit 2,000 per day in recent weeks and caused chaos at the local Gevgelija railway station as crowds stormed trains.

The impoverished Balkan country declared a state of emergency on Thursday. Police sealed the border and fired tear gas and stun grenades on Friday to drive back crowds, the latest flare-up in a migrant crisis rattling the whole of Europe.

Some 600 people were allowed through overnight, jammed into a 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) train north towards Serbia, the last stop on a long road from the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Hungary and Europe’s borderless Schengen zone.

More arrived by foot on the Greek side as morning broke, many of them Syrian refugees brought by boat chartered by the Greek government to the mainland from inundated Greek islands such as Kos. Some 50,000 hit Greek shores in July alone.