Greek police evacuate 1 000 more migrants

2016-05-25 22:00
A mother and her children walk past tents during a police operation to clear a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the border between Greece and Macedonia near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece. (Yannis Kolesidis, AFP pool)

A mother and her children walk past tents during a police operation to clear a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the border between Greece and Macedonia near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece. (Yannis Kolesidis, AFP pool)

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Idomeni - Greek police on Wednesday moved another 1 000 migrants out of Idomeni, the squalid tent city where thousands fleeing war and poverty have lived for months, on the second day of an operation likely to last a week.

The migrants, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, were bussed from the camp on the Macedonian border to newly opened centres near Greece's second city Thessaloniki, about 80km south, bringing the total moved out to 3 000 since Tuesday.

They included 779 Syrians and Iraqis, 170 Kurds and 57 Pakistanis and Afghans, a police source in Athens said, adding that the operation had concluded for the day and would resume again on Thursday.

"There is an unknown number who have set out on their own," the officer had said earlier, suggesting the operation could be over sooner than expected.

But conditions at the new camps are far from ideal, the Save the Children charity said on Wednesday.

New camps 'inhumane'

"When families arrived in the new camps yesterday, many with babies and young children, they were faced with deplorable conditions," the group's mission leader Amy Frost said in a statement, describing conditions as "inhumane".

There was very little food and water and just four incredibly dirty toilets for almost 200 people," she added.

When the evacuation began Tuesday, some 8 400 people were still living in the muddy and dirty Idomeni camp, which has become a potent symbol of human suffering and chaos as Europe struggles with its worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Most of its residents have fled war and misery in the Middle East and South Asia.

Djohana, an English teacher from Idlib in northwest Syria, said all she had found in Greece so far were "lies and a bad situation".

"Even an animal can't live this life," she told AFP on her way out of Idomeni.

As police could not tell her which camp she would be taken to, she opted to join her family in a local hotel.

Around 100 migrants refused to enter the new centres on Tuesday and headed off on foot towards Thessaloniki city.

Non state-run media were again kept at a distance during Wednesday's operation.

The Greece-Macedonia border is one of several in the Balkans closed since mid-February as countries on the migrant route have sought to halt the influx.

And the transfer comes after a brutal winter of freezing rain and mud which saw many people trying to force their way across the border, sometimes resulting in violent encounters with Macedonian police.


At its height, more than 12 000 people crammed into Idomeni, a camp that aid groups originally opened last year to accommodate just 2 500 people during what was at the time a short procedure to cross the border.

The camp exploded in size after Balkan states began closing their borders in February to stem the human tide seeking new lives in northern Europe.

Migrants are wary of relocating to organised camps away from the border or Athens because it could be harder to find people-smuggling contacts.

There are currently more than 54 000 migrants stranded in Greece, according to government estimates.

Protesting migrants have repeatedly blocked rail traffic between Greece and Macedonia, hampering trade between the two countries.

So far this year, the International Organization for Migration says an estimated 190,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. More than 1,350 have died en route.

A controversial deal between Turkey and the EU came into force in March aiming to halt the flow of people to Greece.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday that parliament would block laws linked to the deal if Ankara is not granted its key demand of visa-free travel.

Read more on:    greece  |  migrants

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