Migrants storm Macedonian border, teargas used
Police fired tear gas at migrants as they tried to break through a border fence from Greece into Macedonia in the latest violence to hit the migrant crisis, leaving 260 people injured.
The incident took place near the Idomeni border crossing in northern Greece, a flashpoint where more than 11,200 people have been stranded after Balkan states closed off the migrant route in mid-February.
A Greek police source said hundreds of migrants gathered to demand the opening of the frontier and tried to force the fence, prompting Macedonian police to fire tear gas.
Macedonian police confirmed the incident but said the tear gas had not come from their side.
'There are some incidents on the Greek side of the border. Greek police are using tear gas near the border with Macedonia. It is calm so far on the Macedonian side of the border,' a senior Macedonian police official told AFP.
The protest came after rumours in the squalid and overcrowded Idomeni camp that Macedonia was going to open the border. Similar rumours a fortnight ago also triggered an unsuccessful attempt to rush the fence.
Efforts by the Greek authorities to persuade migrants to leave Idomeni and move to nearby reception centres have not been successful, with many people preferring to stay put in the hope the border will be opened.
In late Feburary, Macedonian police tear gassed some 300 migrants after they broke through a Greek police cordon and raced towards a railway track between the two countries, prompting the European Union to voice 'concern' about heavy-handedness.
Today's clashes came a day after five people drowned off the Greek island of Samos, the first deaths in the Aegean Sea since a controversial EU-Turkey deal to stem the flow of refugees took effect three weeks ago.
The news comes as EU ministers visited Turkey today, urging the country to carefully implement a deal on returning migrants and warning they would be keeping a close eye out for potential abuses.
A delegation led by Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency, visited Istanbul nearly a week after Greece began shipping migrants back to Turkey under a highly controversial deal to halt mass migration into Europe.
Rights activists have slammed the pact, arguing that Turkey is not a safe country for refugees, and raising concern that refugees would not be given their right to apply for asylum before being deported.
Koenders held talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in which he highlighted 'the importance of respecting humanitarian law and international agreements', said a statement from the Dutch government.
'The Turkish authorities endorse these principles, and that is of key importance. We will keep a very close eye on this,' said Koenders.
Koenders also met with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and rights group Amnesty International.
The UNHCR said this week it was concerned for 13 people who were deported without being allowed to apply for asylum, while Amnesty has said Turkey could not be considered a 'safe country' for the return of refugees.
'Reports of abuse should be carefully dealt with and the European Commission must be given the chance to examine these reports before any conclusions are drawn,' said Koenders.
He was accompanied by ministers and state secretaries from France, Malta, Italy, Slovakia and Portugal, who also visited Greece on Saturday.
Katehon experts state on this issue:
That the Migrant crisis in EU is out of control. Liberal ideology and the expectance of migrants clashes with European survival instinct. While some Europeans try to stop the never-ending migrant wave, liberals try to embrace it, pushing multicultural ideas to the limit. Austria uses its weight is Macedonia to defend itself from the migrant crisis.