NEWS

EU ‘very concerned’ by FYROM’s migrant crackdown

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The European Union said on Tuesday it was "very concerned" about the crackdown at the Greek border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) where FYROM police fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants.

"The commission is very concerned by the images we saw yesterday," said European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas. "The scenes we just saw are not our idea of managing the crisis."

FYROM police on Monday fired tear gas as some 300 migrants forced their way through a Greek police cordon and raced towards a railway track between the two countries.

Schinas recalled that non-EU FYROM had "undertaken specific commitments" in October to work with EU states to ease Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

"It is up to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to protect those borders. The images show once again that the only solution is a collective solution, a European solution," Schinas said.

"All measures on the borders must be in compliance with international law, and European law."

Greece is the main arrival point for the huge flow of people fleeing war and poverty who are arriving in Europe – mainly via Turkey.

Thousands of migrants are stranded in Greece after FYROM, along with other Balkan states including Serbia and EU members Slovenia and Croatia, imposed a daily limit on the number of migrants allowed to enter.

The foreign minister of FYROM on Monday defended the country’s use of tear gas against migrants, saying security forces were protecting themselves against violence.

Several EU countries, especially those along the so-called Balkans route, have expressed their impatience with Greece, accusing Athens of doing little to secure its borders and stem the migrant flow.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides earlier announced that he would propose Wednesday a plan to provide emergency assistance within the EU, adding that Greece had requested aid.

"This is a necessary step to prevent humanitarian suffering," Schinas added.

Greece’s government said it has asked for 480 million euros in equipment and staff for the temporary camps to be set up for refugees trapped in the country.

EU sources said the funds are usually earmarked for catastrophes outside the bloc, such as in Africa and the Middle East.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker meanwhile telephoned Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday to express "unwavering support" for Athens in dealing with the crisis. [AFP]