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Greece protests "unacceptable" violence against refugees by FYROM forces

ATHENS, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Greece's political leadership on Monday strongly condemned the "unacceptable" injuries of hundreds of refugees by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) forces on Sunday at the Idomeni border crossing.

"Countries that adopt unacceptable behaviors in terms of humanity, such as FYROM's behavior against refugees on Sunday, do not have place either in the European Union or in the NATO," Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in a press statement after a meeting with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

"It is a shame for the European civilization," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.

More than 300 refugees, including several women and children, were injured by rubber bullets, stun grenades and fire gas, according to humanitarian groups offering assistance to refugees on the Greek side, when FYROM border guards opened indiscriminate fire on a group of some 700 people who attempted to break through the fence and cross into FYROM on Sunday.

Three children have suffered head injuries from rubber bullets, at least 30 people were injured by the bullets and among the cases who were treated for respiratory problems were also pregnant women, Nikitas Kanakis, president of the Greek branch of the Doctors without Borders, told local MEGA television channel on Monday.

Approximately 100 refugees and activists pushed a train wagon near the border crossing on Monday and climbed on top waving Greek flags next to the fence, eye witnesses said.

Protesters demanded the borders be opened so that the 11,200 people living in squalid conditions at the makeshift tent city of Idomeni, could continue their journey to central Europe.

About 53,000 refugees are stranded in Greece since mid-February after the Balkan route to central Europe closed, according to the latest official count released on Monday from Greek authorities.

Athens, Skopje and the EU Commission have repeatedly called on the refugees to move into organized accommodation centers.

FYROM authorities have accused Greek police forces deployed in the area of doing nothing to put an order before the unprecedented clashes erupted on Sunday.

The head of Greece's liaison office in FYROM, Ambassador Theoharis Lalakos, made two "severe demarches regarding the unacceptable incidents" that took place in Idomeni on Sunday.

Greece "made it clear in the most categorical manner that the use of violence in no way whatsoever contributes to the resolution of the refugee problem and is in direct conflict with the relevant provisions of international and humanitarian law," according to the announcement.

Denouncing the use of "excessive force" during Sunday's incidents, Greek Deputy Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas said Greek authorities have stepped up efforts to relocate all refugees into organized hospitality centers by May, with the informal camps at Idomeni and Piraeus port, where 4,500 people are sleeping in the open, presenting the greatest challenges.

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