The Camp is located in the Northwest of Greece, around 4 km outside the town of Filippiada. It is of the main road leading to Ioannina, with lots of traffic. It is situated on a large gravel-covered area. On the other side it faces a dense forest leading towards a river. In order to enter the camp, one has to register with the municipality. The reason given for this procedure: preventing smugglers from entering the camp. There are around 700 people living in the camp, half of which are children. People are sleeping in small tents, which each house around 7 people. In the back there is a paved area with Dixie toilets. There is a large warehouse on the site where volunteers from the close by town Arta distribute clothes and baby food for some hours during the day. Besides that there is nothing.
“There are no organisations here, no journalists, the UNHCR has been here once. Now the Pope goes to the Islands. The media is on the Islands and at the border. We are forgotten here!” says A. a Syrian refugee who, like most other refugees, has been in the camp for almost a month. who is eight month pregnant and here with two children has her husband waiting for her in Germany. “I don’t want to give birth here. There are only male military doctors here. I need some proper care!” she exclaims.
While we were visiting the camp, a group of local lawyers came to “inform the people what their rights are.” As they started explaining in a large circle of people that they can ask for asylum or for the relocation program via Skype, the whole circle started laughing. “We have tried to call via Skype many, many times. None of us ever got through! We know we have the right to apply for asylum, but the system is not working.” one of the refugees explained.
“Why did the EU close the border?” asked a young couple. “We came because we thought we can seek protection in Europe, but now we are placed here in a tent in the forest with snakes and nothing else. This is no live here!”
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.