Idomeni (Greece):Greece on Tuesday began sending back to Athens by bus hundreds of Afghans trapped on the border with Macedonia following Skopje's refusal to allow them passage to northern Europe, local police said.
Afghan families boarded nearly a dozen buses for the long trip back to the capital, where they will be temporarily housed in relocation camps, the police said.
On Monday, some 600 Afghans had protested on the railway line between Greece and Macedonia. Three of them climbed the border fence and were arrested by Macedonian police.
Skopje introduced the measure on Sunday, following decisions by countries further up the migrant route to turn back groups of Afghans.
Some 4,000 people were stranded on the frontier on Tuesday as even the crossing of Syrians and Iraqis, who are allowed to pass, slowed considerably, Greek police said.
The arrival last year of more than one million refugees and migrants on Europe's shores, many fleeing war, poverty and persecution, has caused a chain reaction of border clampdowns, in a blow to the EU's border-free Schengen zone.
As the main gateway into the bloc, Greece has been struggling to cope with the inflow and fears new restrictions by other members will leave tens of thousands stranded on its territory.
Philippe Leclerc, head of the UN refugee agency in Greece, told AFP that Afghans currently make up around one third of the 2,000 people who land from neighbouring Turkey on a daily average.
"We risk having three very difficult weeks ahead" because of the border blockade, he said during a visit to the island of Lesbos, adding that Greece's migrant facilities cannot handle the load.