Macedonia detains hundreds of migrants after mass border breakthrough

Macedonia detains hundreds of migrants after mass border breakthrough
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 15, 2016

The Macedonian police and army have detained hundreds of migrants who forced their way across the border from Greece on March 14. At least 1,000 migrants illegally crossed into Macedonia from the notorious Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek side of the border.

Over 12,000 migrants are stranded in the camp in increasingly desperate conditions after Macedonia closed its southern border with Greece last week. As countries along the so-called Western Balkans route sealed their borders, Skopje also decided to allow only as many migrants to enter across its southern border as will exit the country at the northern border with Serbia.

As of early on March 15, most of the migrants who made their way across the border near the southern village of Moin had been detained and sent back to Greece, local media reported.

As the migrant crisis worsened, the Macedonia army built some 25-26 kilometres of fence, mostly around the main crossing point near Gevgelija. However, according to broadcaster 24casa, the migrants found a place at the border where there was no barbed-wire fence.

Greek police officers and foreign reporters followed the migrants across the border, broadcaster Telma reported, adding that some of the journalists had been taken to the local police station.

Earlier on March 14, a police official told bne IntelliNews that three illegal migrants had drowned in the Suva Reka river near Gevgelija at the Greek border as they tried to cross into Macedonia on the way to Europe.

According to initial information, the drowned people, one woman and two men, were migrants from Afghanistan.

Macedonian police rescued other 23 migrants as they tried to enter Macedonia across the river, and transferred them to the Vinojug reception centre, news agency Makfax reported.

On March 7, EU leaders decided that irregular migration along the so-called Western Balkans route has come to an end. EU leaders reached a draft agreement with Turkey, according to which Turkey would act to prevent the exodus of refugees and migrants to Greece in return for various concessions including a substantial aid package and support for its EU candidacy.