High tensions continue in the Balkans where thousands of refugees are seeking new routes to Northern Europe since March 9 when Macedonia completely shut its borders to refugees coming from Greece. Last week, Macedonian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of refugees who were attempting to pull down the razor wire fence on the border.
Those refugees had gathered at the border, near the town of Idomeni due to circulating rumours that the border would be reopened. When these rumours were found to be untrue, the crowd of desperate migrants released their frustration on the fence itself in hopes of tearing it down.
After the incident, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an organization that assists refugees, claimed to have treated 200 people for tear gas exposure and 30 for rubber bullet wounds.
The UN agency for refugees has stated that it does not support the use of tear gas on refugees.
The vast majority of these refugees come from war-torn Syria, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last year alone, there were one million refugees who used this Balkan route to Europe. When the border was closed in March, thousands of migrants became instantly stranded. Many have taken desperate measures in search of alternate routes. The most common alternate route is by sea to Italy and Spain, which proves more dangerous and expensive. Those displaced by the horrors of war are risking their lives in hopes of a better life and some have paid with their lives along the way.
Debates concerning such refugee policies continue to rage throughout Europe and the rest of the world, only heightened by political agendas and the fear of links to recent terrorist plots and attacks.