Greece starts removing stranded migrants at Macedonia border

by Reuters
Wednesday, 9 December 2015 07:28 GMT

A Syrian refugee woman holding her baby reacts in front of a Greek police cordon while trying to reach a narrow border crossing into Macedonia near to the Greek village of Idomeni December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

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IDOMENI, Greece, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Greek police started removing hundreds of migrants stranded on the Greek-Macedonian border and blocking rail traffic on Wednesday, a police official and a Reuters eyewitness said.

Some 1,200 people mostly from Pakistan, Morocco and Iran, were stuck near the northern Greek town of Idomeni, demanding to cross into Macedonia to reach northern Europe after non-EU Balkan states began filtering migrants by nationality.

The police official said the migrants would be taken to Athens on buses and will be accommodated in migration centers before being sent back to their home countries.

Hundreds of thousands of people streamed into Europe this year, mostly through Greece, but Balkan states began blocking passage last month to all but Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, who are considered as refugees because they are fleeing war zones.

Clashes have flared in the last two weeks between police and stranded migrants blocking the Greek-Macedonian crossing for refugees and the railway line running between the two countries. A Moroccan man was electrocuted to death on the line last week.

Macedonia has erected a metal fence to keep others out and plans to extend it to cover more than 40 km (25 miles) of the border.

More than 600,000 people have arrived in Greece this year by making the short but perilous journey by boat or rubber dinghy from Turkey to outlying islands. Thousands more have drowned.

In another such incident, Greek coastguard recovered the bodies of 11 people, including five children, after their wooden boat sank off the island of Farmakonisi in the early hours on Wednesday, a coastguard official said.

Some 23 people were rescued, while 13 were still missing, the official added.

(Reporting by Alexandros Avramidis, additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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