Authorities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Friday relaxed a crackdown along the country’s border with Greece as crowds of desperate migrants and refugees seeking to enter the Balkan nation grew larger and more restless.
Earlier in the day, FYROM police had used tear gas, stun grenades and even rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, leading to 10 injuries. Four of the people injured were transferred to hospitals in the northern city of Kilkis.
The heavy-handed tactics prompted an intervention by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), which called on the government in Skopje to establish the “orderly management” of its borders.
The response came a day after FYROM declared a state of emergency and closed its borders due to a large migrant influx. Authorities reacted early on Friday morning after dozens of Syrian and Afghan youths tried to push past police in riot gear and through the wire fencing that the authorities had used to block the entry points that migrants have used to access FYROM in recent days.
Hundreds of migrants and refugees have been sleeping on a nearby railway track, leading to the suspension of services.
After tensions peaked on Friday, with some 4,000 migrants gathered near the Greek border village of Idomeni, FYROM authorities allowed some people to cross the border, giving priority to women and children.
Local authorities in Idomeni said they had urged the Greek government to address the situation but that there had been no response.
The flow of migrants and refugees northward showed no signs of slowing. On Friday afternoon, another ferry docked at Piraeus with around 2,300 refugees from the islands of the eastern Aegean. Lesvos, Kos and other islands are under increasing pressure as the influx from Turkey is relentless. Authorities on Lesvos said there were some 11,000 migrants on the island on Friday.