As the rain is not forecast to stop until Wednesday, the small tents scattered around the fields in Idomeni continue to be more and more entrenched in the mud. Further bigger tents are being erected to host people, but still a huge amount of people do not even have wooden palets underneath their minimal shelter.
The UNHCR is not registering people for the EU relocation within Idomeni camp. Instead, people are vaguely directed to the other camps in the region – with no clear indication of how to make their way – to register there. These camps are run by the military and are not closed, but access to independent observers is restricted. This is currently not the case in Idomeni where no such registration procedures exist. It is unclear what is planned with these camps. But their architecture – enclosed by a fence, with only limited access points – and especially the fact that they are heavily controlled by the authorities, raises the question as to how long they will remain open.
Despite the terrible weather and the border closure, many people are refusing to leave Idomeni. Their demands are not for better living conditions, food or for relocation elsewhere. Their steadfast claim is that the border needs to open.
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.