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.
1.00: Around 500 people are waiting since 7pm at a petrol station near Polykastro to be transferred to Idomeni.
00.30: Border crossing is closed again. About 50 people from Syria, Irak or Afghanistan could enter Macedonia.
24.00: Now people are allowed to cross one by one. It seems that they check the papers.
21.00: The Situation at the border crossing has totally changed. Protesters‘ blockade is over, now Macedonia has closed the gate. 2000 people in front of the closed gate. A lot of families and small children in the mass. Many people sleeping and waiting also on the ground. A Greek police men reported that they might open the border within next three hours. No confirmed information about planned nationality filtering. It’s hard to imagine how they could manage to do it on these conditions. If mass starts to move without border opening this will be a life risking situation for all people waiting. Massive police presence on both sides of the border.
18.30: Highly increased police presence now, 10 buses of riot police in the center of the complex. People are preparing to sleep outside, the camp is extending to the fields nearby.
18.00: Many buses on their way to Idomeni are now being stopped by the police at an abandoned petrol station in Evzonoi, 2km from Idomeni. From there now several hundred people are walking on the highway to go to Idomeni.
17.00: Frontex announces its presence at Idomeni for next week (see here)
16.30: Food supply by NGOs has stopped. Only autonomous groups are providing now.
15.30: Situation at the fence has calmed down for now. The crossing is more and more under police control, but still the border is not open, as there is still fifty people in front of the gate. Behind the police line there as several hundred people waiting and shouting slogans.
13.15: The train has left carrying around 70 persons. It will stop at Thessaloniki, then there should be a connecting train to Athens.
13.00: We talked to friends of the supposed dead person. They report that he climbed the wagon because they had no proper place to sleep. The Maroccan died because of an electroshock he catched from the electric wire of the railway infrastructure.
12.30: Situation is very tense and complex. Greek special unit has surrounded the protestors which are blocking the crossing. Massive tear gas/pepper spray actions of them against protesters who try to reach the enclosed groups at the fence. Hundreds of Syrians wait on the field besides the camp. Parts of Camp A are closed by those who cannot pass the border. Greek police is somehow present at the entrance of the complex. At the railway station in the back, there is one train to depart around 1 or 2 pm to Athens. Police advises people to take this train. UNHCR is not present. Official infrastructure has broken down. Desperation and anger is taking over, there is rumours that one person committed suicide some hours ago. We observe only little media presence.
Obviously there is only one sustainable solution to this willingly generated catastrophy: The border has to be opened.
11.00: Massive armed fightings between Syrians and Non-Syrians because nobody is allowed to cross the border at the moment. Divide et impera.
09.00: The border is still closed. All nationalities are stuck now. Conflicts are rising among those who could pass, and those who cannot. People are trying to walk to other border crossings. UNHCR has left the camp tonight. Europe’s strategy of divide et impera has worked out so far.
24.00: Update: It’s not ten buses waiting, it’s twenty. Additional 1000 persons will have to sleep outside tonight.
23.00:The border crossing is still blocked by protestors. Greek police has completely left the border zone. Right now around ten buses are arriving. UNHCR reports that they have no clue how to accommodate the newly arriving persons. Obviously they have enough stored goods, but no staff to distribute it.
19.00: Still hundreds of protesters in front of the fence. The border crossing is blocked, nobody can pass right now. The camp is getting crowded as new people still arrive.
17.00: Protesters shout ‚Etihad‘ (United) to gather all nationalities in front of the fence.
16.00: Protesters have teared down the fences of the crosspoint. Situation tense. Greek police doesn’t intervene.
15.00: Hundreds gather at the crosspoint as rumours have spreaded that border would be opened in 2 hours. Macedonian police/army has strengthened its presence with water cannons and riot units. We have no confirmed information about border opening.
13.30: Hundreds of refugees tried to pass the fence at its end and just came back to the camp. They reported, that Macedonian army/police was entering Greek territory and shot on them with rubber bullets. Furthermore, they told about warning shots in the air.
13.20: Yesterday evening, about 30 buses arrived. This resulted in chaos this morning at the crossing point. The cage surrounding it, was destroyed.
21.00: After the strong demonstration this morning, there were several smaller protests and marches during the whole day inside the camp.
The announced Frontex officers have not arrived yet. They will have a spot right in the center of the complex.
After the police has increased security measures yesterday, now also some NGOs and volunteer groups are joining this discursive construction of a „danger zone“ in Idomeni by publishing travel warnings in social media.
When we left the camp around 30 coaches were waiting in front of the camp, bringing new people from the islands.
19.00: Solidarity initiatives held a demonstration tonight in Thessaloniki to support the protesting migrants stuck at Idomeni. More than 1000 participants were counted.
15.00: There were two more demonstrations. We have the impression, that there are more people in the camp today then in the days before. Furthermore, we were told, that FRONTEX will arrive in Eidomeni soon.
12.00: This morning, a strong and peaceful demonstration took place. Members of all blocked refugee groups participated. On the Macedonian side of the fence a water cannon was placed. We will upload photos & videos later.
22.00: Many buses have arrived today which lead to increasing jams at the Greek-Macedonian transit checkpoint. Some turbulent situations emerged, also because Macedonian army/police is not able to read Greek or Arabic papers and denominations of nationalities.
Tonight a heavily armoured Greek police unit is supporting regular police; it seems that Greek authorities perceive the camp more and more as a danger zone. The policing of desperation and uproar is the current answer to this politically generated crisis.
Quite the contrary indepent kitchens and infopoints are facilitating new moments of solidarities, self-organization and friendships.
Some impressions of today:
17.00: A spontaneous demonstration of around 150 people passed the camp and finally stopped at the fence to protest. Macedonian police/army has installed water cannon behind its fence.
Still many people arrive at the camp. Long queues for food and water. The night will be very cold.
12.00: Several protests in front of the fence, shouting „Open the gate“. Last nigth first snow was dropping in the mountains near by.
The situation in Idomeni is getting worse. Many people are stuck at this spot for 10 days now. They are refused to enter Macedonia unless they are holding passports from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. At night the temperature drops to around 5 degrees, the cold wind blows hard and many people only find shelter in self built tents. Apart from the big NGO Praksis there are now two independent kitchens that prepare food for over 1’000 people, but still people have to wait in long queues.
These independent groups create spaces of solidarity within the camp. Refugees together with activists are preparing food and cooking hot tea. They fix electric generators, show how to built wind shelters and help where ever they can. There is much knowledge in the camp but people mostly just have to wait and try not to get too cold.
Of course there are also a lot of tense situations. Volunteers that bring cloths and shoes in their cars are overran and so for women and children there is no chance of getting dry stuff. This obvious lack of dry cloths, tents and sleeping bags in the camp seems not to be a question of supply, but a political question as there are well stocked warehouses in vicinity. Either the UNHCR is not capable of organizing the distribution or they just want people to leave Idomeni.
The general atmosphere in the camp is of course depressed. There is absolutely no information from Greek officials or the UNHCR about what people can expect. The question if the border will be opened is asked permanently and there are many rumors passed around.
The new barbed wire fence long the border of Macedonia was completed on Sunday by the Macedonian army. According to news reports it is at the moment around 3km long and planned to be expanded to 25 km. People that try to walk around the fence and they are found by the Macedonian army are directly deported back to Greece.
In closing the border for certain nationalities and deporting back to Greece Macedonia breaches the UN Refugee Convention that guarantees individual rights. But so far no international outcry is heard.
Rumors that Greece will built (detentions) camps in the province seems unlikely at the moment, as the provincial government rejected this plan. They do not want the refugees to stay in their province.
Ticker News from
22.11.2015 – 28.11.2015
can be found 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.