Idomeni (Greece): Hundreds of refugees on Monday tried to break through a border fence into Macedonia from Greece, where more than 7,000 people are stranded, as anger mounted over travel restrictions on migrants.
In a sign of widening divisions within the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile lashed out at Austria and Balkan states for abandoning debt-laden Athens to refugee chaos.
Macedonian police fired tear gas as a group of some 300 Iraqi and Syrians forced their way through a Greek police cordon and raced towards a railway track between the two countries.
“Open the borders!” they shouted as a group of men used a metal signpost to bring down a section of barbed wire fencing into Macedonia, prompting police to fire volleys of tear gas and preventing them from crossing.
At least 30 people, including many children, requested first aid, the charity Doctors of the World said.
The protest occurred several hours after Macedonia allowed just 300 Syrians and Iraqis to cross before resealing the frontier.
With Austria and Balkan states capping the numbers of migrants entering their soil, there has been a swift buildup along the Greece-Macedonia border with Athens warning that the number of people “trapped” could reach up to 70,000 by next month.
As the bottleneck showed little sign of easing, Merkel slammed the restrictions and pointed the finger at Austria, whose introduction of restrictions on February 19 triggered a domino effect in the Balkans.
“We can’t just abandon this country,” she said, referring to Greece.
The spate of border closures was sparked by Austria’s announcement it would accept no more than 80 asylum claims per day and cap the numbers of those seeking to cross its territory.