Greece steps up evacuation of migrant border camp

 12 Apr 2016 - 16:52

Greece steps up evacuation of migrant border camp
Refugee kids play near the railway at a makeshift refugee camp in the Idomeni village of Greece, near the Macedonian border on April 12, 2016. Refugees are trapped at border after Macedonia closed the border for refugees. Ayhan Mehmet - AA


Idomeni, Greece: Greece was stepping up efforts Tuesday to persuade hundreds of migrants to leave a squalid camp on its border with Macedonia where violence broke out at the weekend, officials said.

At least 400 people had agreed to leave in the last two days, local police and an AFP journalist said.

"We can see more refugees are interested in leaving Idomeni. They don't feel comfortable here, they don't feel safe here, not at all anymore after the recent events," said Liene Veide, the UN refugee agency spokeswoman in Idomeni.

On Sunday, some 250 refugees and migrants were hurt as they tried to force their way into Macedonia, with Macedonian riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to push them back.

Macedonia accused Greek police of failing to intervene as around 3,000 people "violently" tried to cross the border, hurling stones and injuring police, but Athens said Skopje had used "excessive force".

The clash was the latest unrest to erupt at Idomeni, where more than 11,000 people have been living in squalid conditions for weeks after Macedonia and other Balkan states barred passage to them.

Many of them are refugees fleeing war in Syria and Iraq.

Sunday's violence broke out after Arabic-language leaflets distributed around the camp falsely suggested the border was about to open.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday blamed non-Greek volunteers for "inciting" migrants to storm the fence.

Veide said the flyers were "everywhere".

"We don't have any information who is exactly doing that, but definitely it's not the solution in this situation," she told AFP.

Greek police on Tuesday detained for questioning over a dozen volunteers before releasing most of them without charge.

Efforts are also under way to peacefully clear another makeshift camp at the port of Piraeus housing some 5,000 people.

Around 1,000 of them agreed on Monday to relocate to a nearby camp at the industrial hub of Skaramangas.