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Macedonia Insists Migrants Were Not Mistreated Despite Firing Stun Grenades And Tear Gas

22/08/2015 12:17 BST | Updated 22/08/2015 13:59 BST

Macedonian authorities have insisted that they did not mistreat desperate refugees who were trying to leave Greece - despite beating them with truncheons and firing stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at them.

At least eight people were believed to have been injured as officials tried to disperse around 3,000 migrants on the border on Friday, the day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency to deal with an influx of migrants heading north through Europe.

But the country’s foreign minister Nikola Poposki said that the government had to act because up to 3,500 were crossing the border each day.

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Police force a group of refugees back

He told the BBC: "In the last several days there has been a dramatic increase of inflow of migrants and we have reached numbers of 3,000 to 3,500 per day which obviously is not something a country of two million people and our resources can handle on a daily basis.

"We had to reinforce the control of illegal entry of Macedonian territory."

He added that he had not seen images of people being beaten back by police.

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Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International, condemned the reaction of authorities, saying that migrants were being treated like “rioters rather than refugees”.

He said: “Every country has the power to patrol its own borders, but this kind of para-military response is an unacceptable push-back in violation of international law.

“Macedonian authorities are responding as if they were dealing with rioters rather than refugees who have fled conflict and persecution.

“If the reports of beatings and firearm use by the security forces are true, this would mark a very dangerous escalation of an already tense situation.

“All countries have a duty to protect those fleeing conflict and persecution, and Macedonia is no exception. When the system cannot cope, you improve the system – you don’t just stop people from coming in.”

macedonia

A man and boy cower away from officers

Earlier this year, amendments to Macedonia’s Law on Asylum were introduced with the intention of increasing access to asylum.

They enabled asylum-seekers to register at the border, and provided them with a 72-hour pass to remain legally in the country in order to access the asylum system, with the right to use health services and public transport.

However, according to Amnesty, many use this pass to travel through Macedonia and onwards through Serbia, into Hungary, with transport subsidised by the authorities.


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