Riots Broke Out at the Greek-Macedonian Border After a Migrant Died of Electric Shock

Unrest has been noted both between Macedonian border police and the so called "financial migrants", as well as between those migrants and a host of refugees fleeing the war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

by Alexandros Avramidis, Words: Kostas Koukoumakas
04 December 2015, 1:40pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

Thursday saw unrest at the refugee camp outside Idomeni on the Greek/Macedonian border, after a refugee was killed by an electric shock as he tried to climb on a train. There were reported clashes between Macedonian border police and refugees fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation could escalate in the coming hours as Greek police get involved. The refugees, mainly from Iran and Morocco, have effectively blocked the neutral zone on the border between Greece and Macedonia and intervention by the Greek police is looking increasingly inevitable.

On Thursday in parliament, Greek Deputy Minister for Migration Policy Giannis Mouzalas spoke about the situation. Mouzalas noted there is an "operational plan" in place before adding that, "there will be a solution in Idomeni. It's obviously not going to be a walk in the park. It's going to be a difficult situation for the government and for everyone else. We are going to offer a solution and try to avoid any further escalation of the situation." The deputy minister also noted that this issue will be resolved within four to five days and that "that won't involve physical violence but it won't involve flowers either."

The body of the deceased, a few moments after his death. Photo courtesy of Antonis Repanas

According to police sources, 6,000 people were gathered at the camp early on Thursday morning, 2,500 of whom do not have permission to cross the border. Shortly after 10AM, a 22-year-old Moroccan died of electric shock while attempting to climb on top of a train carriage at the Idomeni rail station and chaos ensued.

His compatriots as well as other migrants surrounded his body and put it on a makeshift stretcher. They began marching towards the border. Macedonian police responded with teargas and the refugees hurled stones. Some also set fire to blankets and other items, filling the air with heavy smoke. At least two injured migrants were transferred to the local medical centre.

Journalist Antonis Repanas, who covers the developments in Idomeni, said: "the intensity of the situation is like nothing we have seen before and it's only going to get worse. There is a war in Idomeni. Both Europe and Greece should be ashamed, subjecting human lives to this game of chess."

After the skirmish between Macedonian police and the refugees finally ended, the migrants handed over the 22-year-old Moroccan's body to emergency services.

The desperation of the migrants is clear. "They tell me that I should go to Athens. What am I going to do there? Where will I stay? Where will I work? I have no money. They have to let us through. I want to go to England. That's where my wife and two daughters are – my daughters are 5 and 8 years old", said 36-year-old Mohammed Salim from Pakistan.

At around noon on Thursday, a Greek National Railway train arrived in Idomeni to gather any refugees wishing to return to Athens or Salonika, free of charge. Eventually the train departed with just 50 passengers. While the borders between Macedonia and Greece remain closed, hundreds of train carriages full of food, fuel and Christmas products sit stranded, damaging trade and hitting transportation companies hard.

As the crisis continues, there are renewed rumours that Greece will temporarily exit the Schengen Treaty that ensures open borders between European countries. Meanwhile Frontex, the EU's border agency, has announced that it will increase its activity on the Greek/Macedonian border.