By Ken Olende
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Determined refugees break down Macedonian borders

This article is over 8 years, 3 months old
Issue 2468
Syrian migrants protest in Greece
Syrian migrants protest in Greece (Pic: Samos Chronicles )

Thousands of refugees forced open the border between Greece and Macedonia last Saturday. 

Refugees who manage to get across the Mediterranean to Greece often continue north to Macedonia. 

Many head for the railway station at Gevgelija, hoping to catch a train north to Serbia and then across Hungary to Germany. 

Even if they get into Macedonia the journey is fraught with danger.  Hungary is building a four metre high streel fence along its border to keep migrants out.

The European Union (EU) border agency recorded 107,500 people crossing into the EU during July, a three-fold increase on the same period last year. 

The British media is obsessed with saying everyone is coming here.

But in fact Germany took the largest number of refugees and Austria has the highest number of refugees per head.

The Macedonian government claimed last week that 3,500 refugees were coming each day and it could not cope.

It closed its border with Greece and riot police beat arrivals back with truncheons and riot shields.

Police fired stun grenades into a crowd of refugees trying to cross the border on Friday.

But the following day, some 2,000 refugees burst through the police lines. Since then the government has agreed to allow them through.

Rostom Mohamed, who had travelled from Iraq with his wife and three children, said “I want to go to Germany for work.


“I want to be safe and live like a human being.”

The majority of refugees crossing Macedonia are from Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, according to the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Ahmed Satuf, from Idlib in Syria, said, “I’m not a terrorist. We are humans. Where’s the humanity? Where’s the world? Everyone here, they are families.”

Refugees travel through Macedonia because it is safer than going through neighbouring countries. Most southern European states hope people will pass quickly through.

Several governments are also contrasting themselves to multicultural countries such as Britain or Germany. 

So the Slovak government has said it will take 200 Syrian refugees, but only if they are Christian. A government spokesperson said, “In Slovakia, we don’t have mosques.”

But refugees who get to western Europe can’t always avoid such bigotry. Around 1,000 people rioted for two nights last weekend in Dresden, eastern Germany, against the arrival of 250 refugees.

And the tiny minority who head for Britain could find themselves camped at Calais, where the British government is doing everything in its power to keep them out.

France’s president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin on Monday to discuss “harmonising” their migrant policy.

They are prepared to let more migrants in than the British government. But they look at the issue purely from the economic interests of their state governments.

They are also determined to strengthen Fortress Europe’s external borders.

We say all refugees should be welcome here.

Solidarity with Calais migrants

Weyman Bennett

Weyman Bennett

Stand Up To Racism is organising two solidarity delegations to Calais to support migrants there.

The first will take place on Saturday 5 September. The group is appealing for people to support it.

Weyman Bennett is joint national secretary of Stand Up to Racism.

He went to Calais with a delegation earlier this month.

Weyman told Socialist Worker, “Calais shows the nature of the Tories’ racist offensive. 

“When I visited the so-called jungle in Calais I met human beings fleeing war and economic destitution. 

“People are going to Calais to bring solidarity because we want to show that David Cameron does not speak for us.”

For more details go to

Theresa May sends in cops to solve the ‘crisis’

Tory home secretary Theresa May was crowing this week, claiming she had ended the “crisis” in Calais.

She said this had been done partly by sending British police to set up a joint control centre.

May bragged that the centre would “relentlessly pursue and disrupt the callous criminal gangs that facilitate and profit from the smuggling of vulnerable people, often with total disregard for their lives”.

But no refugee would pay such people if they were given any other alternative.

The real callousness comes from the politicians who abandon desperate refugees.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire accompanied May on a trip to Calais. 

He said he is determined to show the desperate people there that “the streets of the UK are not paved with gold”.

Brokenshire was playing up to a popular right wing myth that millions of migrants are trying to get to Britain rather than anywhere else because they see it is a “soft touch” for benefits. 

Yet the vast majority of refugees do not choose to come the Britain. 

The British government is turning a blind eye to the reality of life for migrants in the rest of Europe.

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