Macedonia sends back refugees who pushed their way in

Interior Ministry spokesman Toni Angelovski told The Associated Press the migrants "have been returned to Greece"

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Macedonia sent back hundreds of refugees to Greece on Tuesday, a day after they bypassed a border fence in a mass push to continue their journey north to Europe's prosperous heartland - a move Greece blamed on "criminal misinformation" possibly spread by volunteers working with them.

Interior Ministry spokesman Toni Angelovski told The Associated Press the migrants "have been returned to Greece."

About 1,500 people pushed their way into Macedonia on Monday through an unguarded section of the border, frustrated at being stuck for weeks in a waterlogged tent city outside the closed crossing of Idomeni. They walked about 5 kilometers (3 miles) and forded a swollen stream near the Greek village of Hamilo.

A Macedonian official said 700 migrants who had been detained overnight were deported to Greece through the same location they entered. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the press, also said about 50 journalists and volunteers detained with the migrants were released after paying a 250-euro ($280) fine for illegally entering Macedonia.

Greek police said groups of migrants were seen coming back to Greece from unguarded sections of the border east and west of Idomeni - although Greece says it received no official notification or repatriation request from Macedonia.

About 200 people who had camped overnight near Hamilo were returning to Idomeni on Tuesday, while Macedonian police guarded the area. It was not possible to account for all the migrants.

About 14,000 people are stuck in the Idomeni tent city in swampy conditions after days of heavy rain. For months, hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa flowed through here, on their way to seek asylum in central Europe. But a tightening in border controls that started in Austria and extended down the Balkan migration route ended in a total border closure last week.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras blamed Monday's mass move to circumvent the border fence on misleading leaflets distributed at Idomeni, which encouraged the refugees to make a concerted push north.

Tsipras said "unknown people, perhaps groups that call themselves volunteers," handed out leaflets advising migrants to cross the border by bypassing the fence and warning that if migrants left the overflowing Idomeni camp for shelters in northern Greece, they would be imprisoned there.

"This is criminal behavior toward people who face great hardship," Tsipras said. "This must stop."
Tsipras urged the refugees to leave Idomeni for the shelters, and called on volunteers working with them to help scotch false rumors.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki, in a statement, said only a "united and humane" response from the European Union can solve the continent's migration problem.

"More migrants in deteriorating tent cities at the border only encourages (people) smuggling," Poposki said.

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