At the moment, about 3500 people are living in the Nea Kavala Camp close to Polykastro – according to official data. But nobody knows, how many people are living there actually. We were told that many people who register in the camp leave from there again after some days and move back to Idomeni or somewhere else without informing the camp administration. In the camp there are several hundred small tents and some big tents.
At the entrance of the camp, the „camp-ID“ or the permission to enter the camp is checked by police/military, but there are already some holes in the fence which is surrounding the camp. Camp residents told us, that they get noodles every day. The persons who have money, can also buy snacks/drinks at a snack car parking on the territory. There are not enough showers and toilettes available. There is no possibility to apply for asylum and/or relocation/resettlement in the camp. For applying for asylum the camp residents have to call – like all other refugees in Greece – the Greek authorities via skype, which is practically not possible. This also means, that people who have close relatives already living for e.g. in Germany, don’t have any chance for family reunification under the Dublin-regulation. What is currently going on in Nea Kavala, who is responsible for what and what will happen there in the future is largely unclear. Or in the words of the UNHCR-staff, we met in front of the camp: „Nobody knows anything“.
On the 18th of November 2015, Slovenia closed its borders for refugees who are not from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. Just a little later, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia also adopted this practice of segregation. There is little doubt about that this policy was pushed by the European Union as a starting point for slowing down or even stopping the flow over the Balkan route. Thousands of refugees were stuck in Eidomeni, Greece, and started to protest. The Moving Europe Bus was on the spot and reported live from the 22nd of November to the 11th of December 2015 – when the camp had been evicted. On the 5th of February 2016, we decided to restart our live-ticker as the new year has already seen several attempts from the European Union to slow down the migration movement towards Europe. Macedonia seems to become a key player in this strategy. For several weeks the Macedonian border authorities have slowed down the transit process. The predictable effect of this, given the high arrival numbers to the Greek islands, is that thousands are becoming stuck in Greece. On the 3th of February the Macedonian government announced its plans to strengthen border controls which will further reduce the speed of the transit process. In the meantime, the Greek authorities have established a new buffer zone near to Eidomeni. Since the camp at the border has already become highly overcrowded, there are fears that the violent scenes of last December in Eidomeni will be repeated. Therefore the authorities have decided that people should be kept at bay, at a gas station on the highway that is 20 km far away from the border (at Polykastro). For weeks migrants have had to stay there for hours under miserable conditions. Since the end of January the situation at the Greek border zone has escalated once more. There is only a trickle of people being let through to Macedonia and now people at the gas station have to wait for days before their buses finally leave towards the border. On the 3rd of February 2016 thousands of them decided not to wait any longer at the petrol station and started to walk towards the Macedonian border (#marchofhope 2). Further protests and tensions are to be expected. The Moving Europe Bus is on the spot since the 2nd of February and reports live from Polykastro and Eidomeni.