The situation in Idomeni has not changed much in the last days: there are still people sleeping in tents and abandoned train compartments, long queues at the food distribution, volunteers collecting garbage, kids running around everywhere and adults trying to organize daily live. The train tracks towards the Greek-Macedonian border crossing are blocked and guarded by two large Greek police vans.
The continued closure of the Greek-Macedonian border forces refugees to seek alternative – illegalized and therefore more dangerous – routes. Some people left Idomeni and go to bigger cities, few leave for the state-organised camps, some try to cross into Macedonia/FYROM by walking but are regularly and repeatedly pushed-back to Greece by the Macedonian/FYROM authorities. Alternative routes seem to be the main conversation topic in Idomeni. What are the best routes? How dangerous is it? How much does it cost? Where to get enough money? Closing the border does not counteract the smugglers, instead it increases the number of people who depend on them. However, only people with the financial and physical abilities can attempt the difficult illegalized routes. Families or single adults with small children are mostly forced to stay in Greece.
Moreover, on the other side of the borders there are people who want refugees in Idomeni and elsewhere to move on, such as the group Welcome to Wuppertal who are pressuring the city to „Let people from Idomeni come to Wuppertal“.
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.