A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mobile medical team operating in the Idomeni area on the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Greece today received ten people with wounds from stun grenades fired by Macedonian border troops. The area is currently in a state of chaos, with 3,000 migrants and refugees being violently prevented from crossing the border by Macedonian troops. Tear gas has been used to disperse crowds, and there is widespread fear, panic, and frustration among the refugees.
Four people wounded by the grenades needed to be referred to the hospital, one of whom was further injured after being beaten by FYROM army personnel. Six of the ten had less serious injuries and were treated on the spot.
"The violence used by the FYROM authorities against these harmless and vulnerable people is outrageous and should immediately stop,” said Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF’s humanitarian advisor on displacement. “The shocking scenes today are a result of extreme measures to prevent desperate people fleeing violence and war from crossing borders. But closing borders and using violence is not a solution, it is just provoking a humanitarian crisis on the other side."
The situation was already extremely tense yesterday, when MSF’s medical teams treated more than 100 patients—the most in a single day since MSF began activities in Idomeni in April. Three patients were referred to the hospital: a pregnant woman with severe pain and bleeding, a one-year-old baby from Syria who needed to be hospitalized after a previous surgery, and a man who said he had been beaten by FYROM police. Additionally, four patients fainted due to exhaustion, heat, and hunger. The team also distributed non-food items to the people gathered at the border area.
According to the Dublin regulation, refugees should apply for asylum in the first European Union country they enter. But with Greek authorities struggling to offer acceptable reception conditions, many refugees see no other choice than to continue their journey north through the Balkans.
“How can we imagine that hundreds of thousands could be willing to stay in a place that cannot provide decent reception conditions for even a few days?” said Ponthieu. “We are witnessing the absurdity of the European asylum system, with dire consequences on the health and integrity of these refugees.”
Since April, MSF mobile medical teams have been visiting the Idomeni area on the border between Greece and FYROM five days a week, offering medical consultations; psychological support; and relief items such as blankets, energy bars, and soap.