Fate of Idomeni refugees hangs in balance after camp closure

Refugees start looking for new shelters after leaving the cleared out Idomeni refugee camp in Greece.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The emptied Idomeni refugee camp at the Greek-Macedonian border village.

Refugees who were stranded at the makeshift camp of Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border are now looking for other places to find shelter.

After Idomeni was cleared out by the authorities, refugees packed up their belongings and many of them refused to board buses heading to organised camps. Instead, they set out for the fields.

Refugees walk through a field near the village of Evzoni, Greece

The refugees are committed to staying on their route towards Europe. They fear they may be relocated to new camps where they could once again end up being trapped.

There were some who pitched their tents in a field near the emptied out camp while others found shelter at a gas station in the town of Evzoni.

Refugees find shelter at a gas station near the village of Idomeni, Greece

After Macedonia introduced border controls on its northern border with Greece, refugees were relocated to a makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni.  For months they lived in squalid conditions.

Authorities made another announcement that the camp would be cleared as refugees have refused to leave the camp for the last few months.

When police and bulldozers started razing the Idomeni camp on Tuesday, many refugees ran away while some of them even looked for smugglers to help them continue on their route.

"I'm looking for a smuggler," 18-year-old Syrian refugee Diar said. "Everyone here is trying to get a smuggler and move from here, by plane or by walking, or anything else."

More than 12,000 refugees had lived at the Idomeni camp at its peak in inhumane conditions. Only 2,800 people have been relocated by bus to new camps. The exact number of the refugees leaving on their own is still not clear.

Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas stated that "The whole operation has terminated," and the refugees have been relocated to other facilities without the use of any force.

Settlements require urgent improvements

According to aid groups, the new settlements are not functional because some are located in warehouses and industrial zones. They have called on Greek authorities to take necessary steps to improve conditions.

"This is not just about survival. Sites must provide for refugees' basic needs," said Rowan Cody, northern Greece field coordinator for the International Rescue Committee aid group.

"Increasing desperation is already leading to spikes in violence and an increase in mental health issues. How much more can these people bear?".

"There is no place for us and there is not enough food and aid and medicine. People are crammed on top of each other and, at the same time, there are same problems as the previous camp," one Syrian refugee who refused to resettle at the new camps said.

"I don't want to go and get squeezed among people and in the end, we still don't know what our fate will be."

TRTWorld and agencies