GEVGELIGA , Macedonia, Aug. 23 (UPI) — Macedonia reopened its border with Greece Sunday, allowing a largely unrestricted inflow of migrants to enter the country on their way toward Western Europe.
The move comes after a stand-off between the migrants and Macedonian security forces in the border town of Gevgeliga.
The migrants, many fleeing war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, had been stuck at the town for days after Macedonia closed its border with Greece and declared a state of emergency in an attempt to stanch the flow of migrants into the country. More than 40,000 entered Macedonia’s borders since June, according to officials.
On Saturday, about 1,500 migrants are reported to have forced their way into the country despite clashes with security forces armed with batons, stun grenades and tear gas. The previous day, Macedonian police and armed forces reportedly stopped about 3,000 migrants from crossing the border at Gevgeliga.
At the time, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said his country “does not have the capacity to help so many people, so we had to intervene.”
By Sunday, however, Macedonian authorities were making no clear effort to stop the migrant inflow, according to the BBC.
Many of the migrants seek passage through Macedonia into Serbia and then Hungary, which is a member state of the European Union and part of the Schengen passport-free area, thus allowing free travel through most of Western Europe’s international borders without showing documentation.
Frontex, the European border security agency, earlier this month tallied a record number of migrants entering Europe, with 107,500 detected at EU borders in July. From January to July 2015, nearly 340,000 migrants were detected at EU borders, up from 123,500 recorded in the same period in 2014.
Countries along the Mediterranean coast, such as Greece, have seen a spike in migrant populations from North Africa and the Middle East due to the growing number of conflicts and human rights abuses in the region.
The United Nations estimates 160,000 people have landed on Greek shores since January, 50,000 of those in the past month alone.