Greek police have removed hundreds of protesting migrants from a border crossing to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which is denying them entry, deeming them to be economic migrants and not refugees.
The protest had severed a key Greek freight train link with northern Europe for three weeks, and also periodically prevented refugees that FYROM will accept from crossing the border. The services are now expected to restart soon.
Fourteen buses carrying about 650 people, including many from Iran and Morocco, are heading south from the Idomeni border crossing, which police sealed off earlier to remove the migrants.
An official from the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the transfer “seemed peaceful.”
Escorted by police motorcyclists and patrol cars, the buses were expected later Wednesday in Athens, where authorities have set up shelters and will encourage the migrants to make asylum applications in Greece.
About 1,200 people are expected to find shelter at the Tae Kwon Do Stadium in Faliro.
Police said 10 migrants were detained for resisting their transfer to the buses. Journalists and photographers were also briefly detained, despite obeying police instructions to keep away from certain areas.
FYROM only allows migrants from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq through in their long trek north to wealthier European countries. Protesters from other countries say they, too, merit refugee status as they face persecution at home.
In a radio interview, Christos Gountenoudis, the mayor of Paionia, close to the FYROM border, said it was important “to maintain the peace” adding that locals were “concerned and stressed” over recent developments.
“We were afraid that there would be tension. Now everyone has left the area. There is no one left, except police. They take the people away, they get on the bus and they leave,” he said.