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Migrants face tear gas, stun grenades

Migrants face tear gas, stun grenades

Macedonia sends in special forces to help push back the crowds

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IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — Pressed against coils of razor wire and shouting "Help us!" refugees and migrants at Greece's northern border were pushed back by Macedonian police using tear gas and stun grenades as authorities in Greece raced to build more camps to shield the escalating number of stranded people from winter.

A top European Union official prepared to visit the region today to try to ease the crisis that produced more scenes of chaos: Syrian and Iraqi refugees and others forced their way through part of a Macedonian border fence, some clutching infants or struggling to free duffel bags caught in the razor wire. They were met by Macedonian riot police.

Volunteer doctors said at least 22 migrants, including 12 children, were treated for breathing difficulties and cuts.

Authorities in Macedonia said one police officer was injured and that dozens of special forces officers were flown in by helicopter to help quell a refugee protest.

"Tragically, there seems to be more willingness among European countries to coordinate blocking borders than to provide refugees and asylum-seekers with protection and basic services," said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece.

Some 7,000 migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are crammed into a tiny camp at the Greek border village of Idomeni, and hundreds more are arriving daily.

The Greek army completed more temporary shelters in northern Greece over the weekend. At the government's request, local authorities in central Greece opened indoor stadiums, conference centers and hotels that have gone out of business to house migrants, while the Education Ministry called on schoolchildren to join the effort with donation drives.

"Of course Greece over the next one or two months will do what it can to help these people. But it must be made clear that the burden of this crisis must be distributed in Europe," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

The border bottleneck began about two weeks ago, when Austria and four ex-Yugoslav countries on the Balkan migrant route north into Western Europe cut border access for migrants to a trickle.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, begins of tour of those countries today, starting in Vienna, which has been strongly criticized by other EU nations for its caps on asylum-seekers, and ending Thursday in Athens.

Tusk is aiming to prepare for a meeting of leaders from the EU and Turkey on Monday, where the key topic will be trying to halt the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece.

The number of migrants stranded in Greece topped 25,000 Sunday, according to government estimates.

Thousands have been sleeping outside in parks and fields and even along highways, as refugee shelters quickly overflowed.

Germany has opposed unilateral border restrictions and continues to back an EU-wide solution for the migrant crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is resisting calls at home and elsewhere in Europe for limits on refugees.

But Austria's deputy chancellor, Reinhold Mitterlehner — in a sign of continued diplomatic tensions — declared Monday that the refugee restrictions "are necessary (and) we're going to maintain them."

Fiery backlash erupts as Calais camp dismantled

CALAIS, France — Makeshift huts went up in flames Monday in an angry backlash as workers, guarded by scores of French police, began pulling down tents and shelters in a sprawling migrant camp in Calais.

Police lobbed tear gas in a brief clash with pro-migrant activists and others throwing projectiles at officers forming a security cordon to protect the tear-down operation. There were no reports of injuries. At least three people were arrested, authorities said.

As tension mounted, the fragile structures in a southern part of the camp came down and heavy equipment was moved in to scoop up the rubble and junk left. Three makeshift homes went up in flames, the fires set either by upset migrants or pro-migrant activists, according police. A second larger fire, apparently spread by wind, destroyed a mass of shelters.— The Associated Press

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