Police clears migrant camps near border, volunteers detained

Police clears migrant camps near border, volunteers detained

Police detained 34 volunteers in northern Greece Monday while clearing makeshift migrant camps along the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Scores of riot police were deployed as nearly 600 Syrians and Iraqis were ordered out of a camp set up around a gas station near the Greek border with FYROM were moved by bus to a shelter near the northern city of Thessaloniki.

The detained volunteers — all non-Greeks who had been helping migrants with food distribution and other basic needs — were all released without charge following identification checks at a nearby police station, authorities said. Journalists were not allowed access to the site during the police operation.

Greece has continued to expand shelter space to house stranded refugees and migrants. Authorities said a site previously used to store grain had been modified by the army and was being used as a shelter where the migrants were being taken.

Around 3,000 refugees and migrants remain camped at the border at three sites, after authorities cleared a huge makeshift camp at Idomeni last month.

More than 50,000 migrants remain stranded in Greece follow European border closures and an agreement reached in March between the European Union and Turkey to deport newly arrived migrants traveling across the Aegean Sea.

In the Greek capital, refugees at government shelters housed in a sprawling former sports complex for the 2004 Athens Olympics began registering for asylum Monday.

"They had not intended to apply for international protection in Greece, but due to the circumstances they have been, so to speak, trapped," Maria Stavropoulou, director of the Greek Asylum Service, told the AP.

Separately, Greece's coast guard said a distress call had been received from a suspected migrant smuggling boat carrying approximately 200 people in international waters south of the island of Crete and inside Libya's search and rescue area of responsibility.

The coast guard said a nearby Greek-flagged tanker and a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship were heading to the area to provide assistance, after Libyan authorities asked Greece for help. No further details on the nature of the emergency were immediately available.

Hundreds of people have died in recent weeks in shipwrecks in the southern Mediterranean, with overcrowded and unseaworthy boats sinking on their way from the shores of north Africa towards Europe, usually heading to Italy.


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