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UN raps violence against refugees at Macedonia-Greece border

Refugees flee the tear gas as they clash with Macedonian police during a protest to reopen the border near their makeshift camp in the northern Greek border village of Idomeni, on April 10, 2016. (AFP photo)

The UN refugee agency has strongly denounced the use of tear gas by Macedonian police against refugees who were trying to break a border fence and get into the Balkan state.

Adrian Edwards, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement that the use of tear gas by Macedonian police against refugees on the border with Greece would tarnish Europe's image.

"Time and again in recent months we have seen tension unfolding at various European borders, between security forces on the one hand and people fleeing war and in need of help on the other," UNHCR spokesman said in a statement, adding, "People get hurt and property is damaged. Harm is done to perceptions of refugees and to Europe’s image alike. Everyone loses."

The development come after Macedonian police on Sunday used tear gas to disperse hundreds of refugees who were trying to break through a fence on the Greece-Macedonia border.

Some 300 wounded refugees have reportedly been treated in the field clinic of a medical charity group near the Idomeni crossing..

The clashes reportedly erupted after the crowd reacted to rumors that the border was about to open.

Although the Macedonian police denied rumors of border re-opening refugees in their hundreds, including children, tried to scale the fence. The refugees demand the border be re-opened to allow them to continue their journey into Europe.

There are about 11,000 people stranded at the Idomeni border crossing in northern Greece after the Balkan countries closed off the route in mid-February.

Refugees face Macedonian soldiers at the border fence with Greece and German flags as they protest to reopen the border near their makeshift camp in the northern border village of Idomeni, Greece, on April 11, 2016. (AFP photo)

As part of an EU-Ankara deal, Greece has since April 4 started deporting to Turkey refugees who do not meet asylum-seeking criteria.

Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.

Nearly 175,800 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 700 people died in their journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of refugees from their home countries.

Macedonia has shamed Europe

Greece has strongly condemned as a dangerous and deplorable act Macedonian police attack on refugees which left hundreds of people injured.

A Greek government spokesman said the indiscriminate use of chemicals, rubber bullets and stun grenades against vulnerable populations is a dangerous and deplorable act.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras waits for a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart in Athens on April 11, 2016. (AFP photo)

Reacting to the move, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday that the use of teargas and plastic bullets by Macedonian police during clashes with refugees at the border was a disgrace to European civilization.

He noted that neighboring Macedonia had shamed the entire continent by using "tear gas and rubber bullets" to disperse hundreds of refugees at the Idomeni makeshift camp.

The Greek premier stressed that Macedonia's response against "people who did not constitute a threat and were not armed" was unworthy of a European nation. "It's a great shame for European society and a country that wants to be part of it."

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