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Migrants stranded at Greek-Macedonia border protest by sewing lips

world Updated: Nov 23, 2015 20:50 IST

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A migrant sits in no-man's land with his mouth sewn shut during a protest near the village of Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border. Several European countries have declared they will only allow "war-zone refugees"to transit through their countries. (AP Photo)

At least five migrants stuck on the Greek-Macedonian border on Monday sewed their lips to protest against not being allowed to continue their journey to Europe, AFP reporters said.

The men, who say they are from Iran and threaten to go on hunger strike, have been camping on the tracks of the railroad between the two countries since Friday.

One of them wrote ‘only freedom’ on his chest while two others penned ‘Iran’ on their foreheads too.

Read | Poland refuses to accept migrants under EU quota after Paris attacks

One Iranian man, declaring a hunger strike, stripped to the waist, sewed his lips together with nylon and sat down in front of lines of Macedonian riot police.

Asked by Reuters where he wanted to go, the 34-year-old electrical engineer named Hamid, said: “To any free country in the world. I cannot go back. I will be hanged.”

Stranded migrant Hamid, 34, an electrical engineer from the Iranian town of Sanandij sits on rail tracks in front of Macedonian riot police guarding the borderline between Greece and Macedonia. (Reuters Photo)

Hundreds of migrants are stuck on the border after Skopje last week imposed restrictions limiting passage to those fleeing conflict zones.

Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees are allowed through but those deemed “economic migrants” -- mainly people from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- are blocked.

Rights groups have questioned the policy, warning asylum should be granted on merit, not on the basis of nationality.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty have travelled to Greece and up through the Balkans this year, aiming to start new lives in more prosperous northern European countries, with Germany the preferred destination for many.

A migrant with his mouth sewed up participates in a protest as he waits with others to cross the border from Greece to Gevgelija, Macedonia. (Reuters Photo)

The new measure coincides with rising concern, particularly on the political right in Europe, over the security risk of the chaotic and often unchecked flow of humanity into Europe in the aftermath of the November 13 Paris attacks by Islamist militants which claimed the lives of 130 people.

It has emerged that two suicide bombers involved in the attacks took the same trail, arriving by boat in Greece and then travelling north across the Balkans. Most of the attackers, however, were citizens of France or Belgium.


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