Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Migrants and police face off outside Greek camp after border march rumour

Police used tear gas in the scuffles

Hundreds of migrants and refugees gathered following anonymous social media calls to walk until the Northern borders of Greece to pass to Europe. AFP
Hundreds of migrants and refugees gathered following anonymous social media calls to walk until the Northern borders of Greece to pass to Europe. AFP

Hundreds of asylum seekers on Thursday faced off against riot police outside a camp in northern Greece after an online call for a march to the border with North Macedonia, officials said.

Authorities at the camp of Diavata outside Thessaloniki said entire families, some with small children in tow, had travelled from other parts of the country with the apparent intention of setting off for the border with North Macedonia, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the north.

They began gathering in the afternoon after a rumour spread on social media that human rights groups would assist them in crossing the border into the neighbouring country, officials said.

A brief scuffle broke out when riot police were dispatched to keep the Diavata camp residents from joining the crowd outside, with some migrants throwing objects and police responding with tear gas.

At least three people were detained, reports said.

"Unfortunately, some asylum seekers in northern Greece were misled by misinformation circulating on social media despite warnings by camp authorities," a migration ministry source told state agency ANA.

The UN refugee agency has also "issued warnings on the dangers of illegal (border) crossings" and took steps to dispel the rumour, Stella Nanou, a spokeswoman for the agency, told ANA.

In 2016, a sprawling tent city formed at the border town of Idomeni, a bottleneck where 8,000 people mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were stranded after other EU countries began shutting their borders.

The improvised camp was eventually cleared by Greek authorities and the migrants and refugees were relocated to organised facilities around the country.

Over 70,000 refugees and migrants are believed to live in Greece in the wake of a mass influx beginning in 2015, mainly fuelled by the Syrian civil war.

Updated: April 5, 2019 02:21 AM

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