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Macedonian soldiers are strengthening a fence along the southern border with Greece to prevent illegal crossings. But a government spokesman said the border still remained open to refugees fleeing war.
Reports on Saturday said that soldiers in Macedonia were erecting a barrier similar to one recently built by Hungary on its southern border to stop the inflow of migrants who have crossed the Balkans in a bid to reach western Europe.
Hungary's fence is there to keep out all migrants, whom the government considers a threat to European security and wealth, and a danger to "Christian values," Macedonian government spokesman, Aleksandar Gjorgjie said.
Gjorgjiev added that Macedonia's new fence aimed only "to direct the inflow of people toward the controled points for their registration and humane treatment" and insisted that "people who come from war-affected regions" would still be allowed into the country.
Over the past two weeks, various Balkan states including Macedonia have been turning back migrants from countries other than Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, all of which are embroiled in conflict.
Greek police say the move has led to some 800 migrants of other nationalities being stranded in Greece at the Macedonian border. Iranians, Pakistanis, Moroccans and others have held days of protests, and several migrants broke through a flimsy barrier into Macedonia on Thursday.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have arrived in Greece this year, many of them having crossed the Mediterranean from Turkey while fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
The majority want to seek a better life in wealthy European countries such as Sweden and Germany, which is expecting some 1 million refugees and migrants to arrive this year alone.
tj/jlw (Reuters, AP)