Macedonia allows ‘limited number’ of migrants to cross border from Greece
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Macedonia on Friday allowed a limited number of "vulnerable" migrants to enter the country a day after sealing its border with Greece and leaving thousands of refugees stuck in no-man's land.
"A limited number of illegal migrants in vulnerable categories are allowed to enter Macedonia and they may be provided with aid in accordance with the state's capacities," the interior ministry said in a statement.
Macedonia had declared a state of emergency on Thursday, effectively closing its southern border.
The ministry did not elaborate on what it considered vulnerable categories, but shortly after the announcement, Macedonian police allowed in a few hundred refugees, mostly families with children and pregnant women.
The move, however, caused tensions among those prevented from crossing and at least 1,000 migrants and refugees were seen pressing against Macedonian police lines and could be heard screaming in pain.
According to Reuters, at least 10 people appeared to have fainted in the crush that ensued.
Earlier in the day, Macedonian riot police fired teargas to disperse migrants pressing up against its border, prompting the United Nations to voice concern over the situation and urging Skopje to treat the migrants with respect.
Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said he had spoken with the Macedonian foreign minister and “received assurances that the border will not be closed in the future”.
The agency also called on Greece to provide urgent assistance to “people stranded on the Greek side of the border” and to help them move towards refugee reception facilities further away.
Bulgaria, meanwhile, announced that it was ready to dispatch its armed forces to secure its southwestern borders with both Greece and Macedonia against any fresh influx of refugees.
"In relation to the complicated situation in the neighbouring countries and the wave of refugees, the ministry of defence will propose concrete measures to secure the state border together with the interior ministry," a Bulgarian defence ministry statement said.
More than 3,000 mostly Syrian refugees are currently stuck in no-man's land near the Greek village of Edomeni in a standoff with police and Macedonian troops in a bid to stem the flow of migrants attempting to cross into the Balkan nation.
In its statement, the ministry also said that in the past 24 hours, police had issued temporary transit documents to 181 migrants, mostly from Syria, Bangladesh and Pakistan, wanting to cross the small Balkan country on their way to northern Europe.
It added that before Macedonia declared a state of emergency on its southern border, an average of 1,300 such documents had been issued a day, bringing the number of migrants processed since mid-June to 41,000.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)