HUFFINGTON POST

Greek Authorities Begin To Clear Out Idomeni Refugee Camp

They're moving people to state-run facilities where they can apply for asylum.

ATHENS -- Greek police began to evacuate refugees early Tuesday from a makeshift campsite at Idomeni, near Greece's border with Macedonia.

Authorities deployed around 1,500 police officers from across the Southeastern European country to launch the operation. 

Police divided up people according to their nationality in order to facilitate transportation. They started with refugees living in tents inside the camp and gradually moved toward those on the outskirts, near the Idomeni railroad tracks. 

A boy sits on a bus as he waits to be transferred to a reception center.
A boy sits on a bus as he waits to be transferred to a reception center.

More than 2,000 people had left the camp by early afternoon on Tuesday. Many calmly boarded buses headed to state-supervised facilities near the Greek port city of Thessaloniki as well as in the north of the country, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, team wrote on Twitter

Once moved, people can apply for asylum and wait for their claims to be processed. 

Idomeni turned into a squalid makeshift camp several months ago, as thousands of migrants and refugees, many from from Syria and Afghanistan, waited there before attempting to cross the border with Macedonia. Around 8,000 people have stayed there in the past few weeks, living in filth and mud.

Idomeni has been a temporary home for around 8,000 people in the past few weeks. Refugees found themselves stuck and unable t
Idomeni has been a temporary home for around 8,000 people in the past few weeks. Refugees found themselves stuck and unable to move westward after Macedonia shut its border with Greece.

The total number was once closer to 12,000, but the figures began to slowly drop when Macedonia shut its border with Greece in early March

The evacuation will be completed in the next few days, said Giorgos Kyritsis, Greek government spokesman on refugees, on national television Tuesday. The work began last week, when 2,500 migrants and refugees were initially brought to other facilities, he added.

Authorities barred journalists from the site Tuesday. When asked why the media wasn't permitted to document the operation, Kyritsis said that "there shouldn't be too many cameras in the first phase of the operation." 

Aid organizations are already moving their on-the-ground operations to the new facilities. Oxfam said Tuesday it was prepared to begin assisting new arrivals at the Filipiada camp, a state-run center in Northwest Greece.

"We will work alongside the Government of Greece to help those families to have access to basic services and maintain their dignity, and it's the responsibility of the authorities to ensure people are registered and have access to the asylum process as quickly as possible," Marina Van Dixhoorn, the organization's acting country director, said in a statement.

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BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Squalid Conditions In Idomeni
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