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In Europe, Tensions Along Migrant Trail Turn Violent Again


It's been a week since a deal among European countries took effect to try to bring order to the migrant crisis. Instead, tensions among the migrant trail have brought more violence. Medics in Greece treated some 300 migrants near the Macedonian border yesterday. They were injured after Macedonian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to try to prevent them from crossing. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Video footage from television newscasts and YouTube showed waves of migrants pushing against the wire border fence pleading with police to let them through and then running away as clouds of tear gas bloomed around them. A young man identified as Abu Mohammed told the Reuters news agency that desperation among those in the northern camp is growing.


ABU MOHAMMED: (Through interpreter) Today is decisive for everyone, either we go through and die trying or die in Greece. This is our last hope. We've had enough of Europe and their U.N. resolutions - Geneva I, Geneva II and Geneva III.

KENYON: His mocking reference to the struggling diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict reflects a common view among Syrians and other migrants trying to get to Western Europe, that world powers are far more interested in stemming the flow of people toward Europe than in taking serious steps to end the conflicts at the root of the human surge. There are some 10,000 migrants massed at the border with Macedonia.

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders has a clinic at the Idomeni refugee camp near the border. Communications manager Jonas Hagensen, reached by Skype, says there were so many patients from the border clashes that they scrambled to set up a second clinic.

JONAS HAGENSEN: Most of these people - around 200 of them - we treated for tear gas exposure. We also treated a lot of people for wounds after being hit by rubber bullets and around 10 people for body pains and bruises that they say they got from being beaten by the police. We also saw quite a number of broken noses.

KENYON: This isn't the first time the group's doctors have seen refugees suffering from violence they said was inflicted by border police along the migrant trail. Greece condemned the Macedonian response as excessive and indiscriminate use of force. Hagensen estimates that before this weekend, Doctors Without Borders had treated about 150 refugees for wounds from apparent beatings. He urges Macedonia to take action.

HAGENSEN: So we expect the authorities to investigate these matters thoroughly and any acts of violence against civilians like this has to stop.

KENYON: Macedonian today asked Greece to be more effective in preventing riots. A brief protest did take place near the border, but there was no reported violence. A week into the EU Turkey migrant deal, Greece reported fewer than 20 migrants arrived in Greece from Turkey. The numbers have dropped dramatically, but EU member states are still struggling to agree on a plan for distributing refugees. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.