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Hundreds of Macedonia refugees rip through police barriers, cross border

By Amy R. Connolly
Hundreds of Macedonia refugees rip through police barriers, cross border
Some 1,500 refugees forced their way across the border between Greece and Macedonia on Saturday, pushing back on Macedonia's police and army. Image from Google maps

GEVGELIJA , Macedonia, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Some 1,500 immigrants forced their way across the border between Greece and Macedonia on Saturday, pushing back on the armed forces that used batons and stun grenades to stop them.

For the second day, the refugees, many fleeing war zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan clashed with police at the Greek border at the city of Gevgeliga in an effort to pass through Macedonia on their way to more prosperous countries in Western Europe.

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"About 1,500 people who crossed the border into Macedonia today arrived at the train station," in the town of Gevgelija to seek transport north to Serbia, said Alexandra Krause, an official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Saturday, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki appealed for help from the European Union.

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"At this point the help we have received is token, and the main burden is born by the Macedonian institutions. This is not only a financial issue, it's a humanitarian issue, with people leaving a territory that is in war, where their lives are in danger, but who can only be housed if Europe provides a joint response. And at this point, there is no such joint response," he said.

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Ivo Kotevski, Macedonia's Interior Ministry spokesman, said Greece has given up protecting its border. The ministry said it will close the border for uncontrolled movement and will only allow groups to cross as transportation becomes available.

"We are alone in securing the border," he said. "We announced that we will continue selectively to allow a limited number of illegal migrants across the border, in numbers that can be humanely treated and moved on our side of the border."

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Thursday, the Macedonian government declared a state of emergency in an effort to clamp down on the flow of immigrants. More than 40,000 immigrants have arrived in Macedonia in the past two months, and the chaotic scene is similar to that in Calais, France, where immigrants have massed in attempts to cross into Britain.

Ed Adamczyk contributed to this report.

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