False news sparks violent clashes between migrants and police near the Greece-Macedonia border

Greek police used tear gas and stun grenades when attempting to halt the advance of some 2,000 migrants as they tried to reach the Macedonian border on 6 April 2019.

After having set up an informal camp close to the Macedonian border on 4 April, migrants tried to fight their way through a cordon of riot police. Some threw rocks and bottles, and set small fires.

A 36-year old Syrian, named Yaser, told Reuters: “We don’t want to fight with the Greek police. We want to go to Europe, we don’t want to stay in Greece.”

After hours of fighting, some migrants agreed to return to accommodation centres in buses sent by the Ministry of Migration. But others refused.

Yaser’s wife, Fatemeh, told Reuters, “We will stay here until the borders open, we don’t have any other choice,” as she cradled their six-month-old baby.

The migrants congregated near the border as a result of the circulation of a rumour on social media. The false news claimed that the border had been reopened and that non-governmental organisations were waiting on the other side of the border to take the migrants north.

Jana Frey, country director of the International Rescue Committee in Greece, said that migrants “are being lured to the border by smugglers, who are feeding them lies about the border to Europe opening up.”

Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said: “People exhorted by fake news were misled because of their hope.”

Since the countries along the Balkan route shut their borders in 2016, tens of thousands of migrants have become stranded in Greece. Many live in poor conditions in camps, temporary accommodation or on the street. According to aid agency, Médecins Sans Frontières, psychological conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are very prevalent among migrants in Greece.

TMP – 21/04/2019

Photo credit: April 13, 2016. Syrian asylum seekers try to break the Macedonia border fence, as migrants and asylum seekers clash with the Macedonian police at the Greek-Macedonian border, near Idomeni village.