At Cherso we were told, that about 2500 people are currently living in the camp. Some weeks ago it were 1000 more, when the camp was full of mud, due to heavy rain. In the camp only 5 showers and 10 toilets are available. New shower containers are already in the camp but not connected yet. Baby milk and pampers are rarely available. Like in Nea Kavala, the camp residents get noodles nearly every day, delivered by a caterer from Thessaloniki. In front of the camp is a snack car, where people who have money can buy snacks and drinks.
The camp is located in the „middle of nowhere“ and people told us, that snakes and scorpions are being seen permanently. Photos were presented to us, showing snakes which were killed by the residents of the camp. People are very much afraid. A man whom we talked to, said that he already caught a snake inside his tent. Only basic medical treatment is available in the camp. We were informed about a man, who has serious problems with his kidneys and has to go to blood purification more times a week – anyway he lives (or better: lies) in the camp far away from the next hospital.
Like in Nea Kavala, there is no possibility for applying for asylum or/and relocation/resettlement in the camp and the camp residents were told by the military that they have to stay in the camp for at least one year. Holes are in the fence surrounding the camp, so people can also enter and leave the camp in an informal way.
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“.
In Diavata, a small town 10 kilometres away from Thessaloniki, one of the new „official“ camps is located on the ground of a former military base. The area is surrounded by a fence, which actually can not stop anyone from leaving or entering the camp unofficially, because there are already many holes in it. However, there is an official entrance, where people entering the camp are checked by police/military. As we were told by them, at the moment there are about 2000 people in the camp now.
A person who is living in the camp told us, that they receive only a juice in the morning and noodles with a bread for lunch – nothing for dinner. Furthermore he reported, that in many tents not only one family is accommodated: In many tents two families are accommodated – in some of them even three. Single men are accommodated in the building on the territory.
Today was a beautiful sunny day. The camp atmosphere was partly like on a festival: Volunteers played with the children and humanitarian organizations distributed food. Some little improvised shops have already opened days ago on the main route through the camp, selling vegetables, pots and even hair colors, styling gel or shoes.
But this is only the one side: Behind the fence and the barbed wire, a tank is parked with a machine gun on the top. In addition a water cannon is placed directly behind the now closed door, which was the former entrance to Macedonia.
On our walk along the fence we met a woman who has a husband in Austria. She arrived in Idomeni just one day after the Balkanroute was closed. Now she is trapped in the camp – like many, many others.
Later this day, a group of refugees of different nationalities blocked the entire highway E75 at Hotel Hara some hundred metres away from the official border crossing and demanded the opening of the border. Hundreds of trucks were blocked. We counted at least 150 trucks. Furthermore, buses and cars were blocked. Activists supporting the blockade brought warm food and water to support the protest.
Voices from the blockade (translated from our great Kurdish translator):
Now we are in Europe and animals are treated better than Human beings here.
Anyway, we will stay here. We lost everything. We just can not go back, because we lost everything.
There must be a solution soon, Here are handicapped people, seriously ill people, elderly people and a lot of children.
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.