Middle Eastern migrants along the Greek-Macedonian border drew extra attention to their hunger strike by literally sewing their mouths shut.
Thousands of migrants are upset with Balkan nations now refusing certain nationalities entry. Seven men decided to use a needle and string to highlight their grievances.
“It’s difficult to communicate with them,” said Gemma Gillie, a representative of Doctors Without Borders who witnessed the scene at the border on Monday, the Guardian reported. “But they’ve been protesting silently and nothing’s happened – so that’s why they’re doing this.”
Authorities in the town of Idomeni, Greece, believe the men are from Iran, but have no way of verifying ethnicity. The protests, which includes Afghans, Bangladeshis, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Moroccans, have gone on for four days.
“I cannot go back. I will be hanged,” a 34-year-old Iranian named Hamid told Reuters on Monday.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have passed through Greece over the past year, but increased scrutiny became a priority after the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, France, that killed 129 and wounded more than 350 others. The Islamic State group said it plans to use chaos surrounding the refugee crisis to funnel its members into Western nations.
Human rights groups also argue that it should be merit – not nationality – determining whether a person is considered a legitimate refugee.
“To classify a whole nation as economic migrants is not a principle recognized in international law,” said Rados Djurovic, director of the Belgrade-based Asylum Protection Center, the U.K. Independent reported Monday. “We risk violating human rights and asylum law.”
Macedonia’s prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, said his government would continue to accept individuals deemed worthy of asylum, but urged European allies find a way to quickly solve the crisis.
“The status quo is untenable and short-term recommendations do nothing to solve the problem. Macedonia knows that the only solution is European-wide expanded cooperation, real-time exchange of information and additional support so that we may ensure appropriate security and humanitarian outcomes for all involved,” Gruevski said Monday, the Guardian reported.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports roughly 716,000 migrants have arrived in Greece by sea this year. Approximately 59 percent of those individuals are male.