Migrants walking highway to Macedonia

  • 03/02/2016
Migrants walk towards the Greece-Macedonia border (Reuters)
Migrants walk towards the Greece-Macedonia border (Reuters)

By Fedja Grulovic

Hundreds of migrants have set out on foot along a major highway in Greece, heading north for Macedonia after being stranded for days by farmer and taxi driver protests on either side of the frontier.

At least 80 buses packed with migrants, many of them women and children fleeing the war in Syria, were backed up 10km short of Greece's border with Macedonia, halted by police.

Taxi drivers on the Macedonian side have blocked the railway line between the two countries, protesting over the fact that police give priority first to trains and buses to take the migrants north to Serbia en route to western Europe.

On the Greek side, farmers intermittently blocked the border crossing with tractors, part of a protest over a planned pension reform by the Greek government to satisfy international creditors.

The border was effectively closed for migrants, but regular car traffic had been flowing with minor disruption. Then, with patience running out, hundreds of migrants disembarked from their stationary buses and blocked the road, sitting on the tarmac and chanting "Macedonia, Macedonia!"

One group set out on foot, according to a Reuters cameraman at the scene.

Aid agencies and authorities had erected tents along the route to the border, but many male migrants slept outside on the ground, lighting camp fires against the winter morning chill.

"There aren't enough facilities, so we spent the night on the ground," he said.

More than 62,000 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, arrived in Greece last month by boat and dinghy from Turkey braving winter weather and rough seas, according to the the International Organisation for Migration.