Greece starts evacuating refugees from Idomeni camp

Greek authorities will relocate over 8,000 refugees to reception centres and facilities over the next 10 days.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A family carrying belongings during a police operation at a refugee camp at the border between Greece and Macedonia, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, 24 May 2016.

Greek authorities started to evacuate over 8,000 refugees from the Idomeni camp near the Macedonian border on Tuesday morning.

The move comes as the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit is being held in Istanbul.

The process of relocating refugees to reception centres is expected to continue for approximately 10 days. However, no official statement has been made on how long the reception centres or new camps can and will house these individuals.

At least 340 people left Idomeni for another camp in the northern city of Thessaloniki in first few hours of the operation.

No violence has been reported.

On Monday security officials started to arrive at the camp and instructed refugees to leave their tents and board buses which would transfer them to the new shelters.

More than 200 Greek police officers assisted with the evacuation and cleaning of the camp on Tuesday, where weather conditions and the makeshift nature of sanitation services made it hard to maintain hygenic conditions, especially in winter. 

Refugees being transported by bus to government centres from a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, May 24, 2016.

The refugees have spent a brutal winter in the freezing rain and mud, with aid groups struggling to provide food and health services.

Officials have said there are about 6,000 spots available at reception centres. They added that a large number of refugees will be relocated to former industrial facilities converted into camps near Thessaloniki over the next 10 days. 

No official statement has been issued on how long the refugees are expected to stay there.

Many residents of the camp are women and children from war-torn countries. Most of their male relatives have left in a bid to find a way for their families to enter wealthier countries in the European Union (EU), hoping for a better future. 

In March, Turkey and the EU signed a "one in, one out" agreement under which Ankara will take back refugees from Greece while in return the EU will take Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

It is estimated that Turkey is hosting more than 3 million refugees across 26 refugee camps in the country. According to President of the Turkish Disaster & Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) Dr Fuat Oktay, Turkey has spent "about $10 billion on Syrian refugees." 

Oktay said 330,000 Syrian children were no longer on the streets as a result of a national campaign. "Our goal is to bring all Syrian children back to school by 2017."

The five-year-long war in Syria has left more than 400,000 people dead and displaced at least 11 million.

TRTWorld and agencies