This morning, another big protest took place in Idomeni. Around 400 people blocked the train tracks during the entire day, keeping cargo trains from crossing the border. The police intended to blackmail the protesters by stating that they would open the border if they left the train tracks. However, for the protesters it was clear: “They are lying to us! They say that the border will open, but nobody passed today and yesterday only 50 people passed. They are lying to us!”
The situation is getting tenser; people are questioning whether they will ever be able to pass this border. Many have figured out that the small number of people passing is a strategy of the authorities: “They only let some people pass to keep our hopes up, to keep us waiting calmly.”
There have been new camps opening in the surrounding area of Polykastro, where reportedly the few remaining people from the gas station in Polykastro have been taken. However, it has also been reported that these camps are not really ready to accommodate the said 2000 people. Whether the authorities’ containment strategy works with this camp remains to be seen. Possibly, many will make their way to the border in the next days anyways.
Meanwhile, the camp in Idomeni is extending steadily across the surrounding fields. More people keep arriving, on foot and with taxis. All day long there has been a steady trickle of new people, packed with their heavy bags, blankets and small children in their arms. They try to find their way around the already overcrowded camp, hoping to find a tent and a spot to set it up. The number of people exceeds the camp capacity by at least a fourfold. It is only a matter of time until the daily protests become no longer appeaseable.
At the time of writing this post, only 150 people have crossed the border from Greece into Macedonia. The camp at Idomeni is heaving with 7000 people, many of whom have been there for over a week now. Hundreds today gathered at the fence, demanding for the opening of the border. “We don’t want food” they chanted, “open the border” as the gates to Macedonia remained shut for the third day in a row.
“In Syria, we will die immediately. Here, it is just a slow death we are living. I prefer to be in Syria if this is Europe” one man who had been waiting for ten days at the border observed. Another woman pointed out, “if we do the maths, with the amount of people going through each day, I would have to wait 15 days here before even having a chance of getting through. And I don’t even have a tent”.
With new arrivals numbering in the thousands on the Greek islands every day, the various accommodation camps already full and only a tiny trickle of people being let through the northern border, the era of the so-called ‘humanitarian corridor’ seems to be coming to an end. The situation in Greece is untenable and will definitely not remain static with so many people voicing such clear demands. If the corridor does remain shut though, people will find their own way to central Europe, as they did this summer. There are already reports of large numbers gathering on Greece’s border with Albania.
At the same time today, in over a hundred cities around Europe, people showed their solidarity with those blocked and killed by borders by taking to the streets. Under the slogan “safe passage now”, thousands marched to denounce the violence of fortress Europe.
The situation in Greece is further intensifying. Today again, people started to walk from Polykastro, Diavata and even further south towards Idomeni.
This morning the last ferry arrived from Lesvos before the temporary stop of transport from the islands to Piraeus port. The Greek authorities announced that ferries will be held back on the islands and used as temporary accommodation. Apart from the over crowed camps close to the port there are also several hundred people accommodated in the ferry terminals of Piraeus. The people have been there for up to 3 days, staying on cardboard in the terminal halls.
Around 150 people started a sit-in protest at the entrance of the port, demanding on a banner „We want to go out of Greece“.
Meanwhile, the Slovenian authorities have announced to limit the daily influx of people to only 580 per day. The countries south on the Balkan corridor are expected to follow. With only 168 people passing to Macedonia/FYROM yesterday, according to the UNHCR statistics, the bottleneck in Idomeni is not expected to clear up soon.
With heavy rain this evening, the situation in the overcrowded and muddy camp in Idomeni, where many go without tents, is becoming worse. Rising tensions among the people who have been stuck in the camp now for days can be expected.
The situation in northern Greece has changed in an almost unprecedented way. According to MSF, 12 000 refugees are currently stuck in Greece. They want to travel on and their immediate goal is to be as close to the border as possible. Today has shown, that the Greek government’s strategy to split up groups of refugees and lock them up in different camps along the way does not work. In northern Greece, thousands have started to walk towards the border: that is, Idomeni. The whole region seems to be on the move.
Hundreds stuck in the newly inaugurated former military camp in Diavata near Thessaloniki broke the fence today and started to walk towards Idomeni (70km). The camp in Diavata is completely closed off by police and military. No NGOs, no media and of course, no independent people were allowed to enter the camp. Also, no one was allowed to exit. However, the refugees could not be restrained by police, military and fences. They forged a way out and moved on, northbound.
In the meantime, those stuck at the Polykastro gas station decided to walk to Idomeni as well. Around 800 people were on the highway towards Idomeni this afternoon. There were further unconfirmed reports about other spots along the way, where people decided to walk.
Meanwhile, the camp in Idomeni is overcrowded. According to the UNHCR statistics of today, no one has been able to cross from Macedonia onwards. Macedonia, in accordance with the other Balkan route northern states and Austria, have declared mores thorough identity checks. This will mean further slowing of the registration processes and travelling speed of the refugees.
Whilst the camp in Idomeni remains overcrowded, protests and escalations can be expected there in the coming days. And as the recent developments have shown, thousands more can be expected to continue their journey onwards on foot along the highway towards Idomeni. The sight of hundreds walking along the highway are impressive and evoke the images of Keleti, Hungary in September 2015. They show the will of the refugees to reach the border and travel on. Once more, the different governments have made their plans without considering the agency and determination of the people on the move.
We have decided to change the format of our liveticker, in order to better accommodate the fast-pace changes happening simultaneously in many different locations in northern Greece. The several newly opened spots where people will be held back in the region around Thessaloniki as well as the highway from Athens now widen the geographical range from where people are setting off on foot, revolting and protesting. From now on, we will write one update per day in the evening, which will summarize the different events that occurred during the day between Thessalonki and the border in Idomeni. Short updates can be found during the day on our Twitter account: https://twitter.com/MovingEurope
Yesterday once more, we witnessed a violent police action against refugees in Idomeni. Once again, those who were denied their right of freedom of movement; those denied their right to seek asylum in western Europe; those who the EU bureaucrats decided had to stay in Greece; were removed from the border. Against their will and with the exclusion of media and independent observers they where forced into buses and driven away. But once again, these repressive measures were met with strong resistance. The day before, the segregated Afghans showed how committed they are to travel on, by marching to the gate to Macedonia/FYROM and blocking the train tracks.
Furthermore, many of those who are still in the camp of Idomeni now will face difficulties to continue their journeys, as the registration in Macedonia now requires passports or IDs, which many do not have. The entrance to Europe via the Balkan corridor has been outsourced to a closed camp in Gevgelija on Non-EU-territory where Macedonia carries out the dirty job of segregation and rejection. Meanwhile the European Union can pretend to have clean hands.
As it was already the case in December 2015, it is very dubious how these decisions were taken and where the domino effect began: State governments shift the blame to others, stating they were only reacting to restrictions others had already enforced. One explanation could be the decision taken at the regional police conference in Zagreb held on February the 18th. (See their joint statement here: http://www.mup.hr/UserDocsImages/topvijesti/2016/veljaca/migranti_sastanak/joint_statement.pdf) Paragraph 6 mentions Syria and Iraq as the only two examples for war-torn countries. Macedonia must have interpreted this enumeration not as a set of examples, but rather as an exhaustive list of war-countries deemed to produce individuals worthy of international protection.
The introduction of the new measures has led to a complete chaos on the Balkan corridor, which has once again deprived thousands of their basic rights. On the weekend hundreds of Afghans were deported from Croatia to Macedonia. Serbia has sealed off its borders, started to push people back to Macedonia and Bulgaria and has abolished the right to claim asylum for males between 14 and 60 years (see here: http://live.w2eu.info/). This is an immediate violation of the Geneva Refugee convention. Furthermore, the Eastern route via Bulgaria and Dimitrovgrad has been made impossible (see here: http://bulgaria.bordermonitoring.eu/2016/02/23/serbia-starts-deportations-to-bulgaria/), as only the document issued in Gevgelija/Macedonia will entitle refugees to travel via the „humanitarian corridor“. Thereby, people who actually fulfill all criteria are now asked to go back to Gevgelija to receive the newly introduced travel document. Whether this is going to be practicable, remains questionable. The authorities are playing ping-pong with refugees. Meanwhile, the public outcry about these outrageous and extralegal restrictions has not yet occurred.
The camp in Idomeni is still crowded, several hundreds are waiting at the gas station in Polykastro. Because of ongoing road blockades by farmers and the general chaotic situation in Athens and at the border, refugees are distributed along the route between Athens and Idomeni in small accommodation centers.
Activists from Athens have reported that the Sxisto camp close to Athens has already been filled with more than 1000 people, when more buses from Idomeni and Piraeus arrived, carrying mostly Afghans. This camp is open, but guarded by police and army. Access to independent observers is once more denied.
18.00: The camp is crowded, but the situation is calm. People from Syria and Iraq are slowly crossing the border. We are leaving the site now and continue reporting tomorrow.
17.30: The big group of Afghani that has been walking on the highway in police escort is not on the highway anymore. Most probably they have been forced in to buses and brought back to Athens after all.
17.00:6 buses of Afghanis leave Idomeni. They are escorted by police. Around 20 people are sent back from Macedonia. Along with three remaining women still occupying the train tracks, they are put onto a bus and driven away. The camp is very crowded with people from Syria and Iraq.
15.00: A group of around 150 people are walking on the highway towards Idomdeni. Unlike the many people who walked yesterday, this group is accompanied by three police cars. Presumably because they are people from Afghanistan, who have just been evicted from Idomeni. There is the rumour that evicted Afghans protested in the bus when they where driven away from idomeni. The bus driver had to stop. The people could then leave the bus and started walking back to idomeni. We assume it is this group accompanied by police.
13.30: Police is restricting entrance to the camp, they don’t want anybody to take photos. The group of 50 is there reportedly for five hours. It’s not clear why they are kept there. The border is open again for those who are fulfilling the official criteria. The camp is still crowded.
13.00: Still 50 refugees on the railway surrounded by riot police.
12.00: police are blocking the roads in a perimeter of approximately 3 kilometres around the camp. No independent observers are allowed on site. 11 buses of people were sent away from the border. It is still unclear to where they have been brought.
10.00: This time, the Greek police did not wait for so long. They are removing the people who started blocking the train tracks yesterday. Just as on the 9th of December, no journalists or other independent observers are allowed inside the camp. People are said to be transported back to Athens and Thessaloniki.
Some impressions of today, we will continue reporting tomorrow.
17:00: Situation calm. The border area has ceased to be a completely police-controlled territory. Now people are setting up tents here. The camp is completely overcrowded as the border is closed and many SI people cannot pass as they don’t have passports. Reportedly, Polykastro gas station is nearly empty because most people left on foot earlier in the day and buses are said not to be allowed to leave Athens. Meanwhile, reports reached us from Piraeus port that the people waiting there are staging protests and blocking the roads.
16:00: Macedonia deploys a tank behind its fence. This is what European Union and its partners‘ politics look like.
15.30: More Greek police has arrived. Situation static for now.
15:15: Dozens have destroyed the Greek fence protecting the railway tracks.
15:00: Macedonia has deployed more riot police behind its fence.
14:30: Hundreds of Afghanis have broken through a police chain and are squatting the immediate border area.
14.00: Protests of the Afghans stuck and separated in Idomeni camp have arisen.
12:00: Tired of waiting several days at the gas station, hundreds decided to walk on the highway towards Idomeni. It is a 20km walk. Among them many families, injured and old people.
On the 20th of February the police authorities of the states making up the ‘humanitarian corridor’ introduced a single biometric registration document for refugees wanting to enter the corridor. This document is now being issued at one single point on the whole route – the Greek-Macedonian/FYROM border – restricting and controlling the access to the corridor even further. Additionally, it is only being given to the people who can present a valid passport or ID.
As a result of this new policy, chaos has unfolded at numerous border crossings where people have become stuck in an administrative no man’s land. 617 Afghans remain stuck in Tabanovce, Macedonia at the time of writing. Whilst in Dimitrovgrad, on the night of the 20th of February a group of 40 people were denied registration papers by the Serbian authorities. They took a bus to Presevo were they were again refused. They then travelled to Sid, with no papers or passports: it is unclear how these cases are going to be dealt with now on the route. The new measures are certainly designed to criminalise and banish access to the corridor to those arriving from any other point than Idomeni.
At the Greek-Macedonian/FYROM border police have started narrowing down even further the nationalities who are able to enter the corridor as Afghanis have been removed from the nationalities allowed to travel onwards. Now, only Syrians and Iraqis are being issued the new travel document. In the joint statement released after the press conference of the police chiefs of Austria and the Balkan countries, only Syria and Iraq are mentioned as examples of provenance countries for refugees deemed worthy of international protection. This points towards an explanation to the new racist and illegal segregation which is being implemented at the entry to the corridor.
It remains to be seen now, how such implementations can effectively be held out in the next few days. With new arrivals at the islands higher than they have been in the past days and Afghanis constituting a large number of these, it can be predicted that large amounts of people – including many families with young children – will become stuck at the northern border of Greece. We expect the struggle against these racist and illegal measures to start very soon.
22.00: Of the several thousand people who have been waiting at the newly built camp at Polykastro gas station, around one thousand people started to walk this afternoon towards the border camp in Idomeni. The last groups arrived there around 10pm.
This shows that people do not bow to the decisions of European bureaucrats and policy makers. The authorities’ strategy to avoid a similar scenario as the one which took place in Idomeni in November/December 2015 is not working out. Keeping big crowds of people away from the border, especially people who will not be allowed to pass, cannot be avoided. If people are not taken there by bus, they find other ways.
We are about to leave the area for a couple of days to follow the events in Sofia and Belgrade. When we return to Idomeni we will restart the ticker. In the meanwhile you can follow us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter for info on the „Balkanroute“.
The last days have been calm in Idomeni and at the gas station in Polykastro. There was a steady flow of people across the border in to Macedonia. However, people’s movement is controlled through several stops within Greece: on the Islands, within Athens and along the highway towards the border crossing. Several fixed camps are planed to be erected along the way.
Newly erected UNHCR tents at the Polykastro gas station
Whether or not there will be direct trains from Idomeni to Austria is
still up for debate. No matter what, the Idomeni border crossing
will certainly be a crucial point for the future of the Balkan corridor. Macedonia has set up a second fence behind the already existing one and Greek authorities are fencing up the area around the railroad tracks in the camp. Meanwhile a proper camp with high capacities is being constructed at Polykastro gas station.
All these enterprises indicate that the authorities seem not to be expecting less activity in the border area in the upcoming weeks…
As the situation in Idomeni and Polykastro is calming down again, with the flow of people going back to ‘normal’, new plans are announced by the EU politicans.
According to Are You Syrious’ news digest this morning, the Croatian Interior Ministry announced that refugee trains would no longer stop on the Balkan Route except for police and train personnel changes. Registration will be done on the Macedonian Border and trains will depart from there. This change in procedure would mean that refugees will perhaps be exonerated from the long waiting times, which currently happen at all registration points. However, it also signifies that we can expect increased numbers of people concentrated in a highly policed environment, around Idomeni in northern Greece. The Macedonian interior ministry announced last week that every person would undergo 30-minute interview before being given the green light pass the border.
This announced development on the corridor must be read in conjuncture with the recent establishment of hotspots on the Greek islands: pushes from the EU to make it harder for those who are currently not able to use the official corridor (non-Syrian, Iraqi and Afghanis), to pass into Europe and even seek asylum in the countries on the way up to Germany. Possibly, the restrictions will be expanded to even further groups of refugees.
According to Are You Syrious (https://www.facebook.com/areyousyrious) Slovenian police has denied this agreeement, saying that Ministers of all mentioned countries have met and agreed on sending officers to Macedonia, but denying agreement on trains. Also, they claim closing of camps was not discussed. We are still waiting on reactions from other countries, especially Macedonia and Austria.
The situation at the gas station in Polykastro was calm today with around 25 buses waiting. And so was Idomeni with only four buses. The UNHCR was building more tents at the gas station and there are talks about plans to construct a fixed camp with a larger capacity. Apparently work will start tomorrow. This indicates that the UNHCR and NGOs are expecting increases in the waiting times for people at the border and perhaps even restrictions of movement for more groups of refugees. The announcement of the Macedonian government to start conducting 30 minutes interviews with every person that wants to cross is also pointing in the direction of slowing down the traveling speed of people massively. Whether the people will bow to these measures remains to be seen. The protests of the last days show that people will not be easily immobilised and contained.
Reportedly, yesterday night a group of refugees tried to block the highway towards the border in protest of the long waiting time (4 days) at the gas station in Polykastro. They were quickly removed by the police. Some refugees announced that they would go on hunger strike if they were kept at the gas station for more days. Around the gas station there was an increased police presence, keeping people from walking on the highway as well as from walking on the field roads behind the camp. The camp is becoming a closed area, where people are no longer allowed to move freely.
Today though, the people who have been waiting for several days could cross the border into Macedonia. With the steady flow of buses to Idomeni, the situation at the gas station was calmer than in the last days.
Yesterday and today more people were allowed to cross the border, as state authorities were obviously afraid of further protest in the border areas.
Follow Moving Europe’s Twitter-Account for short updates, pictures and videos: www.twitter.com/movingeurope
A transnational alliance has called for a day of action on Feb 6th to struggle for the demilitarisation of the borders, the freedom of movement and global justice. On Feb 6th 2014 at least 15 migrants who wanted to reach Ceuta had been killed by Spanish Guardia Civil.
Solidarity networks have called for a protest in Idomeni as well, but were intercepted by the police on their way to Idomeni and surrounded by massive riot police presence. Massive police presence at the petrol station as well. Greek authorities seem to be very afraid of any kind of events that could provoke protests and uprisings in the fragile equilibrium of strict control, forced waiting and hopes of transit that pervades the border area.
Meanwhile the border was closed temporarily during the day, some groups of people were let trough. Some buses could leave the petrol station, but still many people report to live there now for four days.
17.00: At the gas station nothing has changed. Still thousands stranded on a parking lot. Many small fires to keep a little bit warm. Nobody knows for how long they will have to wait here. Miserable Conditions and strong and cold winds are creating a postapokalyptic landscape. But people are resisting and the atmosphere is less tense than the last days.
15:00: ‚Only‘ about 10 buses are waiting in front of the camp in Eidomeni. Groups of 100 are allowed to cross to Macedonia/Fyrom. We don’t know yet the frequency of these crossings. Police presence has increased, also volunteers and independent people are now questioned and regulated more by them.
10.00: After hours and days of waiting in miserable conditions without any information, yesterday 500 migrants block the highway. Police cleared the highway straight away. Thousands of migrants are stuck at the gas station for days now. Some can sleep inside the buses, some cannot as some buses are locked. MSF is providing most of the infrastructure, but there is a general lack of basically everything. Last night it is very wind and rain started, temperatures are very low. Most people have been here for three days. Some report to us that they have even already had to wait for more than 10 hours at another gas station in the „middle of nowhere“ somewhere on the side of a highway between Athens and Thessaloniki. There are many children, pregnant women, injured and old people.
Most of the green tents have been opened in a rush. Inside are sleeping bags, blankets, adult clothing, and kids’ toys. Styrofoam cups with a sip of chai and plastic plates with noodles from the evening before. Next to the tilt dwelling: A fire place with a pile of logs, which still waits to be burned to provide heat for the hands and feet of those sitting next to it. Day one after the eviction – or, in the language of the authorities: evacuation. All these things that are scattered along the railway tracks testify to the previous presence of the inhabitants of the informal camp close to the border crossing in Idomeni.
The inhabitants are gone – they were made leave by force – but their presence is still attached to the space. A contested, precarious presence, as in the last days, people had been put under more and more pressure to leave the border area. Entering the village wasn’t allowed anymore, as well as taking a taxi. New arrivals were left six kilometers next to the highway in the dark and cold. The eviction on Wednesday was just another violation of personal rights and freedom which is an almost permanent experience for migrants.
Traces of their resistance against this can also be found in the remains of the camp: ‚Fight racist borders‘ read the outer walls of the big tents. Also, people refused to leave during the eviction. Some shouted slogans and tried to stay together until the police started to pull them away brutally, one by one. They fought for that bit of hope that made them stay the last21 days in the windy tents and on the cold ground. Hope, that the border would be opened again at some point. But the people of Idomeni didn’t stay on the rail tracks and fields only because of mere hope. The fact that no border lasts forever has been proved day by day. Groups of people left to the woods, headed towards the mountains. Some came back with traces of police brutality on their bodies. Others sent text messages a few days later as they reached Skopje or Belgrade.
With the eviction, the hope of a border opening has been eliminated. But not the will and determination of people to arrive, where they want to go. They will all find their ways and routes. From the crowded Taekwon Do Stadium in Athens, where they were brought, across the borders.
The scenery in Idomeni was devastating: Empty tents lying around with the belongings of the people who stayed there. The cleaning of the area has already started. There were constructions going on in Camp A, new containers and other infrastructure being put up.
Regular buses from Athens are arriving with people who can pass and with some who are rejected at the Macedonian border. The ones who are rejected have no option but to enter the buses that go back to Athen and cost 20 euros again. We observed a group that didn’t have any money: after a long discussion, they were able to enter the bus nevertheless. In one hour alone two full buses left to Athens. The procedure is very fast now, people leave the buses, get a food packet provided by NGOs and then queue at the border for half an hour.
However, before buses come to Idomeni they spend several hours waiting at a petrol station on the highway, around 40km away from the border. When we were there in the late afternoon, there were around 15 buses. Buses leave one at a time to the border from there, in order to avoid a crowd at the border in Idomeni. We tried to set up our infopoint at the gas station but were sent away by the police.
18.00: Empty tents in Idomeni and a lot of destruction after the police operation.
17.30: The camp is completely evicted now and journalists and observers are now able to reach the empty camp and no longer blocked by the police. All people are said to be brought to the Taekwondo-stadium (see picture below) in Athens. Yesterday there were already 750 people sleeping there; probably it will become totally overcrowded tonight.
16.30: We observed how people from the NGO Praksis searched the tents and told the police that they found a person hiding in a tent. This person was then brought to a bus to Athens. [Update see below / 10.12.2015, 21:37 CET] We have obtained conflicting versions of the event described above, and have moved the respective accounts to the end of this post. [Update see below] The train tracks are empty.
15.30: A bus with new people just arrived in Idomeni (see picture below). It appears that the transit procedur is supposed to go on for the three nationalities allowed to pass. At the same time around 300 other people, mostly families, are pushed into buses bound for Athens. The police cut open a big tent in which people stayed who are refusing to be taken to Athens and removed them from the tent.
14.40: Police presence is still massive: Nine buses full of cops are at the camp. Six buses with migrants are leaving to Athens. Still several hundreds of people in the camp. People are being brought out of the police barrier, with their hands tied up. Eye witnesses reported that police did used violence when people were pulled out of their tents, even against families with children.
13.20 Police tries hard to prevent any (media) coverage: People who have tried to take pictures from inside the camp have been arrested this morning. Follow #idomeni on Twitter. Protests are still going on: Inside the police barrier, migrants are shouting: „We don’t go back.“
13.05 Around 300 migrants refuse to enter the buses. According to media reports, the ten arrested people have been released. One injured person is brought to hospital.
13.00 Ten migrants have been arrested. Apparently there are protests happening at the border.
12.30 Still several hundred people are inside the camp. UNHCR estimates the eviction to take two more hours. The police said the camp will then reopen only for the people allowed to cross the border. A train carrying goods was brought from Macedonia across the border just now.
12:00 There are various areas that are surrounded by the police and military and people are pulled out. More than ten buses left to Athens. It is said that they go to the Taekwon-Do stadium there, but it was already full yesterday. According to the police, the arrested migrants are taken to the police station in Thessaloniki. One group of people was badly beaten by the police.
11:15 One friend from inside reports that police started to clear the railway tracks. People are pushed out of their tents. We heard of more arrests, but not of any injuries yet.
11.00 We are kicked off the area by the state persecutor, with the help of Medicin du Monde. More and more press is arriving but stopped by the police at the highway exit.
10.30 For all those who want to come: Take the mountain road via Hamilo. Police wants to send us away right now.
9.50: Police has blocked access roads to Idomeni. We cannot enter. MSF reports that everything is quite calm, but journalists have been arrested in the morning. People are loaded into Buses to Athens. Friends from inside the camp report that police has surrounded the camp and don’t let anybody leave the camp. One migrant friend was arrested.
9.40: The eviction seems to start soon. We will start reporting in twenty minutes.
Concerning the events of 16:30
[Update 10.12.2015, 15:19 CET] Praksis has provided us with a detailed account of the above described situation. To quote:
On 09.12.2015 at 16.30, PRAKSIS’ team was allowed to enter the camp to carry out the distribution of food. Earlier in the morning, most of those who could not cross the border had already boarded on buses to Athens. Our staff moved around to assess where it would be best to carry out the food distribution. During the search of the area, PRAKSIS’s interpreter spotted a young man who seemed asleep inside a tent. The interpreter approached him and tried to wake him. When he woke up, he informed him about the situation at the border, explaining what had happened and that everyone who was in the area but did not belong to the nationalities allowed to cross had been transferred by bus to Athens.
He asked him what he wished to do and the young man answered that he didn’t want to face any problems with the police and asked PRAKSIS’ interpreter to inform the police about his presence and his desire to get transferred to Athens.
PRAKSIS interpreter, fulfilling his role, informed the police about the presence of an individual who had fallen asleep so did not understand what had happened and now would like to go to Athens.
The young man, accompanied by our interpreter, went to the police – acting on his own will. He thanked him because he was told that if police had found him instead of the interpreter, they wouldn’t believe that he was asleep and probably would have used violence against him.
[Update 10.12.2015, 21:37 CET] Two observers present in Eidomeni have provided us with the following account:
We observed that people with Praksis-vests were passing a tent. We heard how they started a conversation with someone inside the tent. They told him more than once in a determined way, that he has to go to Athens. This man was now standing outside the tent but didn’t show the intention to move towards the busses. The Praksis people called for the police, telling them that here is another person hiding. Two police officers came to the tent and accompanied the person to a waiting bus. We observed this incident from a distance of about 5 meters.
The extended area around Idomeni is turning into a zone of state racism and repression. The people from the camp are no longer alowed to enter the village of Idomeni. For security reasons, according to officials. De facto it deprives the stranded people of ressources, their last possibility to be self-sustaining: Buying food or SIM cards, withdrawing money or staying at a hotel for a night is not possible anymore. Furthermore Taxi drivers are no longer allowed to take migrants from the villages to the camp. It makes their daily struggle at the border harder. Degrading supply conditions in the camp appear to be the strategy of the authorities to empty the camp. Creating harsh, inhumane conditions to make people leave.
Another feature of this deprivation of rights has emerged tonight: Greek police is stopping the arriving buses 5 km before the camp and separates the people who are allowed to travel on from those who are not. They are kicked out of the buses and left on the highway in the cold night. One bystanding responsible cop commented: „They are not people, they are ghosts.“
A group of people were returned today from Macedonia: They crossed the green border and were caught by the Macedonian police. They were told to sit down on the ground. Then the police started beating them with sticks, targeting their knees willingly.
19.00: Another freezing cold night is waiting for the hundreds of people at Idomeni, among them many children. The day was quite calm, the thread of eviction being in the atmosphere. Still the conditions in the camp are miserable: Lack of food, water, warm equipment and of course, lack of any perspective. But anyways, people are preparing for new ways and new solutions. „Tigers Don’t change their ways because of dogs barking“, one person announced today. We will report tomorrow again.
14.00: The situation is calm, until now it doesn’t look like an eviction will happen today. Furthermore, FRONTEX’s office- container is still empty and there is no sign of their presence. The UNHCR believes that still 2000 to 2500 people are staying here at the moment. In the last hours no new people have arrived, so there is no one waiting in front of the border. In the morning again several small protests against the arbitrary separation took place. We met people who went to Athens and already came back here – they declared that here the situation was better. In Athens they had been in a stadium with 2000 people, no food, nothing. The chapter Idomeni is not closed yet.
18:30 As most coaches are waiting at the petrol station for up to twelve hours before coming here, only 200 people are queuing at the border. Most tents have been moved from the rail tracks. A lot of people left to Athens, tired of the situation here. It seems that the strategy of the Greek authorities is working – one of them said to the media: „We will evict. But not with violence and not with flowers. We will do it our way.“ We will continue reporting tomorrow.
14.00: Greek authorities have obviously changed their strategy. The laissez-faire of the last weeks is being substituted by a regulation strategy to manage crowdings in the border area. So, e.g. 35 coaches with approx. 1500 people have been waiting at a petrol station near Polykastro (20km) since 5am. But still, according to our observations, all nationalities arrive at Idomeni.
12.00: When we arrived, already several protests were going on for some hours. People are shouting „open the border!“, „we are one“ and „Merkel help us!“. Meanwhile 25 coaches have arrived and around 400 people are waiting for the transit.
22.00: A lot of coaches carrying migrants from the islands are waiting for many hours at petrol stations along the highway to Idomeni. Greek authorities seem to engage more and more in regulating the access to the Macedonian border. In Idomeni the border zone and the transit process is now totally under police control. We will continue to report tomorrow.
18.00: Today activists squatted a house in Thessaloniki to create a safe and dignified space for returning migrants from Idomeni (see here)
17.00: UNHCR and Police drive around the camp and tell people to return to Athens as there is a free train waiting at the station. For now only 70 have entered. Others are determined to stay: „I will be the last person here“, shared one migrant with us. One UNHCR person declares that the railway tracks will be cleared tomorrow. The border has been closed for three hours and is open again now. Around 600 people are queuing in front of it.
12.30: We just met people who were on a free bus to Athens which was then stopped and returned to Eidomeni by the Police. They have to buy tickets for 20 Euro now. For people who are stuck here without money this creates a paradox in the state logic once more: they are told to leave but can’t afford it. There is no western union or bank close by. The people here have a very simple solution: „If they want us to go away from here there is a very good solution: open the border!“
9:30: Approximately 20 coaches arrived during the night. These people had to wait at the buses. Others queued in front of the border the whole night. This morning Creek Police spread leaflets in different languages again to those ones camping on the rail tracks, stating that they have to leave within three days.
22.50: The situation is calm so far. From time to time, coaches to Athens are leaving and some are arriving. People are still queuing at the border. We will continue reporting tomorrow.
19.00: In the last hours again several coaches to Athens left. Officials say that open camps are provided there. Meanwhile, still thousands of people are preparing themselves for another cold night. Rumors are spreading that the police wants to clear the rail tracks tomorrow, what could involve more violence against the people who are stuck here. UNHCR speaks about a three day ultimatum for the people to leave from here that will end tomorrow. There are constantly buses with new people arriving, at the moment five buses are waiting. Also people, many families, who will be allowed to cross probably have to spend the night outside, because the procedure at the border is very slow.
16.00: The atmosphere in the camp is very calm. A lot of people leave the camp to find new solutions. NGOs reorganize their services.
15.00: In front of the fence, there is now a heavily Greek police controlled corridor. Macedonian border guards are controlling papers of those who are guided through the corridor. Procedure is very slow. Around 400 people waiting in clusters at the fence.
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.