Greece evicts 2,300 migrants from Macedonian border camp (VIDEO)
Greek police have conducted an operation near the town of Itomeni on the border with Macedonia aimed at removing and further deporting from Europe more than 2,000 people, designated by officials to be “economic migrants” not coming from war zones.
“Some 2,300 foreigners of various nationalities are being moved to open hospitality facilities in Athens on board 45 buses,” the police said in a statement, cited by AFP.
The migrants who are primarily from non-war-torn Pakistan, Somalia, Morocco, Algeria and Bangladesh will be sheltered in an indoor sports stadium and disused premises at the former airbase of Hellinikon in Athens, the statement said, adding that about 350 police officers were deployed to hold the operation.
Some scuffles erupted during the eviction which resulted in about 30 arrests. However later those detained were put on the buses to Athens along with other migrants.
The humanitarian workers were asked to leave the area during the operation while journalists and photographs were told to keep the distance of about three kilometers “to protect them from any possible violence, tension or threatening and aggressive behavior.” At least three of the reporters have been even briefly detained.
Police also cleared the railway line, which had been blocked by migrants’ tents since last month.
“The operation of the railway line has been fully restored,” the police said as cited by AFP.
Greece has decided to remove the migrants from the Macedonian border after Macedonia had started to accept only refugees from war-torn countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Macedonian decision left thousands migrants from other countries waiting on the border for weeks which regularly resulted in scuffles.
According to the Greek legislation migrants and refugees can stay in Greece for a month during which they must either leave the country or seek asylum. If failed they can be arrested and forcefully deported.
However, some states do not agree to accept their citizens deported by Greece – for example earlier this week Pakistan agreed to accept only 20 of 50 migrants which Greece wanted to repatriate.
“We are forced to take initiatives, in contact with international organizations and European peers, to return those who are proven not to qualify for asylum,” Tsipras told state television ERT as cited by AFP.
“Greece cannot become a warehouse of souls for people who don't want to stay here,” he added.
Earlier on Wednesday 12 migrants drowned in a shipwreck near Greek island of Farmakonisi, close to Turkey. Sixteen people were rescued and 12 more are still missing.
Europe faces a sharp refugee crisis with more than 900,000 migrants and refugees having arrived in Europe this year. Greece is one of the most crucial transit countries for migrants – more than 750,000 asylum seekers initially arrived in Greece after crossing the Mediterranean.