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Austrian activist arrested after refugee river drama

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Austrian activist arrested after refugee river drama
YANNIS KOLESIDIS/EPA
10:35 CET+01:00
An Austrian volunteer was among those arrested in Macedonia in connection to the dangerous river crossing undertaking by thousands of refugees, three of whom died in the process.

Around 1,500 refugees had crossed the ice-cold river that borders Greece and Macedonia, hoping to continue their journey to Europe and avoid deportation to Turkey, after activists reportedly distributed leaflets explaining how to cross the ‘dry’ river.

Three refugees from Afghanistan, including a pregnant woman and her teenage sister, drowned hours before the mass crossing while trying to navigate the river themselves.

Hundreds were also taken back to the border by the military border police after making the crossing.

Along with around 40 journalists, activists and volunteers, Austrian volunteer and photographer Fanny Müller-Uri, from Vienna, was temporarily arrested by authorities in Macedonia in connection to the journey taken by the refugees.

The group was detained by authorities for 12 hours, had their cameras taken from them, and made to pay a fine of around 300 Euros before being released.

Following her release Müller-Uri has said that she was not aware of any leaflets that explained how to cross the river and that the refugees have their own information networks.

“The people who make this journey don’t need such directions. Firstly, they know the way themselves and secondly, they enter into it with full awareness of the risks,” she told APA.

Leaflets seen by British media, however, reportedly gave detailed instructions on how to reach the river, including a map.

Müller-Uri  also added that some of the international police supporting Macedonian authorities verbally abused the journalists and she also saw disputes among the different forces about who was in charge.

The Austrian activist has since returned to Idomeni, the Greek-Macedonian border town where thousands of refugees have been stranded in recent weeks, to continue working with the ‘Moving Europe’ project that informs people on the move about their legal rights.

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