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Macedonian police tear gas migrants on Greek border


Athens  – Macedonian police on Wednesday tossed teargas canisters at migrants trying to cross the Greek border, as Europe approved more assistance to Athens to relieve the dire conditions of those stuck in Greece.

The reports showed the migrants at the Greek border town of Idomeni withdrew after the clashes and the situation calmed.

Nearly 300 migrants and two dozen police officers were injured in a similar incident on Sunday when around 3,000 people attempted to force their way into Macedonia.

They report said that they were stuck for more than a month at the overcrowded camp.

The path to wealthy EU countries in the north was blocked in March when Macedonia declared its borders closed to all travellers without valid passports and visas, matching similar measures from Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

In 2015, around 1 million people mostly refugees from Syria and Iraq applied for asylum in Europe, with Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia having served as main transit countries.

The closures have lead to bottlenecks in Greece as migrants continued to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey, but the EU has brokered a deal with Ankara in a bid to reduce irregular migration to the bloc.

The European Commission has also tried to take pressure off Greece by awarding it emergency aid and redistributing some of its asylum seekers to other member states.

However, the programme has had limited success, with only 615 relocated out of the country so far.

The European Parliament cleared the way for another 100 million Euros (113 million dollars) in refugee aid to be released through a new instrument for countries worst-affected by Europe’s migration crisis.

Meanwhile, much of it is expected to go to Greece.

“The funds can be used to provide food assistance, emergency healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection and education,’’ the parliament said.

The aid was allocated amid sharp criticism from human rights group over the humanitarian situation in Greece.

Pope Francis, a vocal champion of migrants, planned to assess the conditions himself on the Greek Island of Lesbos on Saturday.

“Next Saturday I will go to the island of Lesbos, where over the past months many refugees have transited,’’ the pope said during his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.

The purpose of his trip, he said, was to express closeness and solidarity towards both the refugees and the citizens of Lesbos and all the Greek people which have been so generous in welcoming migrants. (dpa/NAN)

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