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Five migrants hurt in clashes at Greek-Macedonian border


migrantsAt least five migrants were slightly hurt Friday when Macedonian police threw noise grenades to drive back refugees from the country’s border with Greece, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

More than 3,000 mostly Syrian refugees are stuck in no-man’s land near the Greek village of Eidomeni after Macedonia declared a state of emergency Thursday and sent troops to help stem the flow of migrants attempting to cross the small Balkan country to reach northern Europe.

Police in riot gear fired the grenades as they faced hundreds of migrants, included women and children, gathered at the border fence.

The grenades sent up clouds of smoke and sent the refugees running for cover, the photographer reported.

Macedonian authorities, however, denied any clashes had taken place. Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told AFP there was “no incident, no tear bombs… nothing like that on Macedonian side.”

Police had earlier prevented reporters from accessing no-man’s land where on Thursday officers had been in a standoff with about 1,500 migrants and refugees who wanted to cross into Macedonia.

But with the numbers of refugees blocked on the Greek side building up during the night, tensions rose.

Macedonian police also stepped up their presence at the train station in the border town of Gevgelija Friday, where thousands of migrants who had been arriving daily previously were given temporary documents allowing them to cross Macedonia so they could travel on to Serbia and the main European Union frontier.

But on Friday police were not issuing the documents to newly arrived groups, prompting exhausted refugees to fear that they would be sent back to Greece.

“They don’t give us papers, so maybe they want to bring us back to Greece,” a 24-year-old man from Damascus told AFP.

“We don’t want to go back, we are very exhausted from walking,” said the biology student, who asked not to be named.

“We are exhausted from the situation in Syria. My father died from a shell. I had to leave, I have no one there any more. I want to continue my education in some other country, I don’t want to go back to Syria,” he said.

But a few hundred Syrians did manage to slip across the border during the night, witnesses said, taking to the forested hills with the help of the GPS on their mobile phones to walk around police and army lines concentrated on the plain below.

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