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Dozens of migrants seen breaking through Macedonian border

Groups have intermittently tried to cross border, where they face Macedonian police and army
Syrian refugees cross road with their children on run in forest in Macedonia near the city of Gevgelija after illegally crossing Greek border (AFP/Joe Klamar)

By Joe Klamar

Several dozen migrants managed to illegally cross from Greece into Macedonia on Saturday - a border that has been shut since February, an AFP photographer reported.

The photographer saw the group in the Macedonian town of Gevgelija, across from Idomeni in Greece where more than 10,000 migrants have been stuck for weeks in grim conditions after a series of border closures on the Balkan migrant route.

The photographer, who was travelling with a group of journalists, saw a person "jump out of the bush" in front of his vehicle. "Then I saw two or three others, then around 50 resting in the bush," he said, estimating there were "many others" following this group.

Some 54,000 people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, have been stranded on Greek territory since the closure of the migrant route through the Balkans in February.

The migrants near Gevgelija would have made a three-hour journey from Idomeni including crossing a river.

The group, including "many women, children, even a woman carrying a cat," then disappeared from the journalists' sight, the photographer said, adding that they "looked scared" and "tired".

In the Macedonian capital Skopje, police denied any knowledge of the incident.

"I have no such information," police spokesman Toni Angelovski said.

But he added: "We have these kind of illegal attempts to cross on a daily basis, and police are taking measures to protect the border." 

Groups have intermittently tried to cross the border, where they face the Macedonian police and army. 

Two weeks ago some 260 refugees were injured when Macedonian police fired tear gas in a bid to prevent a large group from storming the border.

Last month, three Afghans drowned trying to wade through the river and cross into Macedonia, while another 1,500 or so who followed them made it across the border - only to be rounded up and sent back by troops.

Describing the refugees, the photographer said he was struck by the tension on their faces, but added they did not seem to be concerned about being spotted by the journalists.

They continued their journey without saying where they were going, but were probably heading north towards Serbia, the photographer added.

Last month a Macedonian army spokesman told AFP that the police and military "daily discover 50 to 300 illegal migrants who are trying to enter into the country or break the fence" and send them back to Greece.

Macedonia, a non-EU and non-NATO country of two million people, has deployed its army at the border since last August to control the influx of refugees and other migrants hoping to start new lives in northern Europe.

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