The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia deployed its army to prevent thousands of migrants from crossing the border with Greece, its Interior Ministry said, a day after the Balkan country declared a state of emergency due to Europe’s immigration crisis.
It wasn’t clear how many migrants are currently on the border, Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski said by phone on Friday. He said he couldn’t confirm reports from the Associated Press that FYROM police had fired tear gas at a crowd of 3,000 people in the no-man’s land between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic. He also blamed Greece for lowering controls and transporting migrants to the frontier.
“We are taking measures to protect our border,” Kotevski said. “We want to respect international conventions and human rights, but our capacities are limited and no one is helping us.”
The state of emergency escalates the migration crisis in Europe, which has failed to create a plan to address hundreds of thousands of migrants streaming in from conflict zones in northern Africa and the Middle East. Greece and its northern Balkan neighbors have become a central transit point for refugees, igniting anti-immigrant sentiment among eastern European countries to the north.
FYROM has appealed for help from Frontex, the European Union border management agency, Kotevski said. More than 40,000 migrants have arrived in FYROM, a country of 2 million people, in the past two months, with most wanting to continue to richer European Union countries, he said.
“This is only the official number, so we estimate the real number is bigger,” he said. “The number has been increasing every day, and in recent days in reached as many as 1,500 people a day.”
The scene in FYROM echoes that of Calais, France, where thousands of people have tried to force their way onto trains and trucks to enter England. Migrants are also being housed in camps across the EU as governments decide on their fates.