GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR condemned on Monday the use of tear gas by Macedonian police against refugees on the border with Greece and said such action damaged Europe’s image.
Dozens of migrants and refugees were wounded on Sunday when Macedonian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds on the Greek side of the border, aid workers said, an act Athens called “dangerous and deplorable”.
“Time and again in recent months we have seen tension unfolding at various European borders, between security forces on the one hand and people fleeing war and in need of help on the other,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in a statement.
“People get hurt and property is damaged. Harm is done to perceptions of refugees and to Europe’s image alike. Everyone loses.”
About 11,000 migrants and refugees have been stranded at the Greek border outpost of Idomeni since February after a cascade of border shutdowns across the Balkans closed off their route to central and western Europe. They have been sleeping for many weeks in the open in dismal conditions.
Edwards said it was urgent to move people voluntarily to sites being put in place by the Greek government, a process that UNHCR was willing to help with.
A wider solution, a plan to relocate 160,000 people across Europe, was agreed many months ago but has still not been put into action, he said.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Gareth Jones