The mass movement came after Macedonia police on Saturday reopened the country’s southern frontier, enabling thousands to travel north towards Serbia from which they seek to enter the European Union (EU).
Riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to drive back crowds, but they were overwhelmed by the thousands of people who tore through police lines or ran through nearby empty fields.
A young refugee embarks on a train trip toward Serbia from the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija.
Huge queues formed as migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia waited for papers to legalize their transit north through Serbia, before they cross by foot into Hungary and Europe’s borderless Schengen zone.
Many migrants had been stuck at the border for days after Macedonia declared a state of emergency and sealed the crossing.
Authorities then lifted the restrictions and allowed migrants to cross freely, allowing them to board the trains Sunday without problems.
Macedonian police say that the new tactic is to discourage bottlenecks on the border.
The three days of face-off between the two groups have injured dozens, according to the Doctors of the World. Najip Zazal, an Afghan migrant, said: “People are very nervous because they have been waiting here for many hours”, “It’s scorching sun and there are no facilities here even for children or sick people”.
Both Greece and Macedonia have seen an unprecedented wave of refugees this year.
Greece’s coast guard recovered the bodies of two men, rescued six people and was searching for at least five more missing off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos after the dinghy they were using to enter Greece from Turkey overturned early Monday.
About 7,000 mostly Syrian migrants, including many women with babies and children, crossed into Serbia by yesterday morning.
Few, if any, of the migrants want to remain in Greece, which is in the grip of a financial crisis – or in impoverished Macedonia.
“There is a flow of people who keep coming”, Alimi said. “Some of them are happy that they are over the Macedonian border”.
Macedonian police tried to portray the decision to let the migrants through as part of a controlled policy to avoid future bottlenecks and violent confrontations, although the move will raise fears that it will simply encourage more.
Serbia’s Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic will visit Presevo border crossing later on Sunday as well as the reception center for migrants in the town. “So far, we have more than 5,000 new arrivals”. A statement said that “as this emergency continues to evolve across the Western Balkans and beyond, greater levels of collaboration and collective effort are necessary in order to manage the humanitarian needs of those affected”.
Information for this article was contributed by Frances d’Emilio and staff members of The Associated Press.