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Greek Police Clash With Refugees At North Macedonia Border After False Reports

Greek police clash with migrant protesters near the North Macedonia border on April 6.
Greek police clash with migrant protesters near the North Macedonia border on April 6.

Greek police clashed for the third day in a row with hundreds of migrants at the border with North Macedonia who are seeking a route to Central Europe.

Police reported on April 6 that they fired tear gas and stun grenades at some of the migrants after many had thrown rocks at officers.

Authorities say the clashes have been triggered by false reports spreading on social media that restrictions on travel to Central Europe have been lifted.

The false reports said the border, which has been tightly sealed to migrants for three years, was open again and that nongovernmental organizations had chartered buses on the North Macedonian side of the border to take them northward.

Refugees arrived on April 4 and set up tents in a field next the Diavata migrant camp close to Greece's border with North Macedonia.

"We must constantly fight fake news," Nikos Ragos, the Migration Policy Ministry's coordinator for northern Greece, told AP.

Greek TV station Ant1 showed a screen shot of a message in Arabic sent from a purported organization called "Caravan of Hope" telling migrants that Greece would open the border with North Macedonia at midday on April 5.

The migrants are mostly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, officials said.

Yaser, a 36-year-old Syrian refugee, told Reuters that "we don't want to fight with the Greek police. We want to go to Europe. We don't want to stay in Greece."

In Turkey, some 1,200 migrants heading toward the Greek frontier following false reports that Ankara had opened its border were detained on April 5, Turkish media said.

Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece after Balkan countries closed their borders in 2016, shutting off the main route to Central and Western Europe.

More than 1 million people used the route in 2015 and 2016 to travel to Germany.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters