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Macedonian police reopen border for a trickle of refugees

Published 03/03/2016

A migrant father with his child waits on the Greek side of the border to enter Macedonia (AP)
A migrant father with his child waits on the Greek side of the border to enter Macedonia (AP)

Macedonian authorities have briefly opened their border with Greece to refugees heading for central Europe, allowing in a few score.

About 10,000 people remain camped at the crossing, awaiting their turn.

Greek police said Macedonia opened the crossing from midnight on Tuesday to 2am on Wednesday, and from 7am to 9am on Wednesday, admitting 170 people from Syria and Iraq.

Hundreds, including many families with small children, arrive daily at the Idomeni crossing in northern Greece, where two official camps are so full that thousands have set up tents in fields all around.

Macedonia has said it will only allow in as many refugees as Serbia, its northern neighbour, takes each day. The tiny trickle has caused a huge backlog in Greece, where most refugees and other migrants reach Europe.

A United Nations field official on the Macedonian side of the crossing said authorities will soon send a train with about 500 people from the nearby town of Gevgelija to the Serbian border.

Jasmin Rexhepi, head of the aid group Legis, said a group of about 50 Pakistanis remain trapped for a fourth day on the Macedonian side of the border between two razor-wire fences.

He said Macedonian authorities are trying to send them back to Greece because the group crossed the border illegally.

Mr Rexhepi also said that about 1,000 refugees - 750 Afghans and 250 Iraqis - are stuck at Macedonia's border with Serbia, which has refused them entry.

In Greece, arrivals by smuggling boats from Turkey on the eastern Aegean Sea islands continue at a rate of nearly 2,000 a day.

More than 120,000 have landed so far this year, on top of 850,000 in 2015.

A string of hastily thrown-up transit camps on the mainland has rapidly filled up, and hundreds are sleeping rough in a central Athens square.

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