Greek police fire tear gas at refugees as clashes erupt for third day in a row

Protests triggered by false reports on social media

Refugees protest near a refugee camp in the village of Diavata, west of Thessaloniki
Refugees protest near a refugee camp in the village of Diavata, west of Thessaloniki

Greek police clashed with hundreds of refugees hoping to cross to neighbouring countries and travel onwards to northern Europe.

Demonstrations outside the camp in Diavata were triggered by false reports on social media saying restrictions on travel to northern Europe had been lifted, authorities said.

Riot police fired tear gas at dozens of people, some with children in their arms, who responded by throwing stones and bottles as they tried to break a police cordon and reach a road leading to the border.

Several refugees, including children, fainted amid the gas clouds on Saturday.

Protesters lit fires to make the air more bearable, but blazes also erupted from exploding stun grenades.

Greek officials say the migrants have been mobilised by false reports originating on social media that the road to central Europe, tightly sealed to migrants for three years, is open again, and that buses chartered by non-governmental organisations were waiting on the other side of the border with North Macedonia, about 60km (40 miles) to the north of Diavata.

Greek TV station Ant1 showed messages sent over social media earlier this week, in Arabic, from a purported NGO called "Caravan of Hope" advising refugees Greece was to open the border with North Macedonia on 5 April at noon.

Most were not residents of the camps, but came from all over Greece to reach the North Macedonian border and had started setting up tents near the camp.

Around 100 tents had been pitched in the field next to the camp, which was heavily guarded by police.

People refused to leave despite calls by ministers to return to accommodation centres and warnings onward travel would be impossible.

"It's a lie that the borders will open," migration minister Dimitris Vitsas told Greek state television ERT on Friday.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Tens of thousands of refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have been stuck in Greece since 2016, when Balkan countries shut their borders, closing the main passage towards northern Europe.

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in