Refugees begin trek to Macedonia

2016-02-25 16:01
Refugees and migrants take hot soup and bread, provided by humanitarian workers, at the transit center for refugees near northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, while waiting for permission to cross the border into Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. Hundreds of migrants from Afghanistan and other nations remain stranded on borders of Macedonia with Serbia, unable to cross, and some of them forced backward toward Greece. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

Refugees and migrants take hot soup and bread, provided by humanitarian workers, at the transit center for refugees near northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, while waiting for permission to cross the border into Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. Hundreds of migrants from Afghanistan and other nations remain stranded on borders of Macedonia with Serbia, unable to cross, and some of them forced backward toward Greece. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

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Thessaloniki - Hundreds of migrants and refugees left an accommodation camp in northern Greece on Thursday, preferring to walk to the distant border with Macedonia in a bid to continue their trek to northern Europe, local police said.

Some 400 migrants and refugees walked out of the camp in Diavata, near Thessaloniki, setting out on a march of more than 80km to the border with Macedonia, which has crimped the number of people it allows through each day.

"They have their backpacks and are moving north," Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris told a local radio station.

"They are mainly youths... they do not want to wait for buses to pick them up... neither the army nor the police can stop them because there is the risk of (violence)," he said.

Another 200 refugees had likewise embarked on a days-long journey of over 300km to the border passage of Idomeni after setting off from central Greece, a police source in Athens said.

Television footage showed the migrants were being accompanied by riot police and authorities said part of the highway was intermittently closed for their safety, but the senior officer insisted no force would be used to stop them.

"These are people with families in tow, how are we supposed to stop them?" he wondered, adding: "They all want to go to Idomeni."

Greek police have been regulating the flow of refugees to the border after Macedonia over the weekend refused to allow transit to Afghans and imposed stricter document controls on Syrians and Iraqis.

A Greek migration ministry source said Skopje had only allowed passage to fewer than 400 people since Wednesday, with another 3 500 waiting at Idomeni.

With Europe facing its greatest migration challenge since World War II, several states along the trail from Greece to Germany have imposed border restrictions.

Athens now fears that with the flow of arrivals from neighbouring Turkey showing no sign of letting up, it could be left to accommodate and feed scores of thousands of war and poverty exiles.

Read more on:    greece  |  macedonia  |  migrants

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