Macedonia police

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Macedonian authorities to ensure an immediate end to the police violence against migrants at the country’s southern border with Greece.

On 21 August, the Macedonian security forces allegedly used stun grenades, teargas, and rubber bullets, a day after the government declared a state of emergency at both its southern and northern borders and sealed the former.

According to reports from organisations in Greece and Macedonia and the international organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres, as well as media reports, the border police bombarded more than 3,000 migrants attempting to enter Macedonia from Greece, with rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades.

The Macedonian Interior Ministry had already announced that army forces would be deployed to prevent people from entering the country.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told HRW that the deployment was necessary to restrict the number of migrants who could enter because of Macedonia’s limited resources, and also noted that the government sought to ensure a more humane and appropriate treatment to them.

Macedonian authorities claim that 181 migrants, most of them families with children, were allowed to enter the country in the early hours of 21 August.

"The government needs to take action against excessive use of force against migrants."

However, the BBC reported that the scores of people, including families with young children, were trying to get through the police blockade, with one migrant beaten up with truncheons and riot shields.

Human Rights Watch research fellow Emina Cerimovic said: "Macedonia’s right to secure its border doesn’t trump its obligations to asylum seekers or give it a right to ignore migrants’ basic rights and wash their hands of all responsibility.

"The government needs to take action against excessive use of force against migrants and instead ensure they have access to shelter, food, healthcare, and special care and assistance for children and other vulnerable groups."

The watchdog is set to document abuse of migrants and asylum seekers at the hands of Macedonian law enforcement at the border with Greece in its forthcoming report, which is scheduled to be released on 22 September.

Image: Macedonian police special forces block migrants near the village of Idomeni in Greece from entering Macedonia. Photo: © 2015 Reuters / Alexandros Avramidis.