Migrants clash with FYROM police on Greek-FYROM border

Migrants hold their documents as they are blocked by Macedonian policemen at Greek-Macedonian borders near the village of Idomeni, Greece November 20, 2015. Balkan countries have begun filtering the flow of migrants to Europe, granting passage to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan but turning back others from Africa and Asia, the United Nations and Reuters witnesses said on Thursday. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

About 1,500 Pakistanis, Moroccans and Iranians have been stuck in Idomeni — a little town which is the border between Greece and FYROM — for weeks after non-EU Balkan states began filtering migrants and granting passage only to refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Desperate migrants stranded for days in squalid tent camps in temperatures barely above freezing are starting to protest against these policies. Today things became violent after about 200 people were denied passage and began walking for several miles alongside a newly erected border fence seeking an alternative opening. FYROM police fired tear gas to push back the crowd and one officer fired warning shots in the air to stop the commotion.

Tension boiled over on the weekend after one migrant, believed to be Moroccan, was electrocuted and badly burned when he climbed on top of a rail wagon.

The decision to screen migrants based on nationality has drawn criticism from human rights groups that argue asylum requests should be treated on merit.

Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said the government was trying to persuade the estimated 1,500 migrants stuck at the border to come to Athens and apply for asylum in Greece, stating that there is accommodation available for them.

Some migrants told Greek officials they were willing to return to their home countries, but the Pakistani government was not responding to requests to readmit them and the International Organisation for Migration had no money to fly them home.