HUFFINGTON POST

Families Stranded At Greece's Border Show The Stakes Of The Refugee Crisis

Since Balkan countries tightened their border restrictions, tens of thousands of people are stuck in Greece.
Transit camps for refugees and migrants in Greece are becoming dangerously overcrowded as border crossings into Macedoni
Transit camps for refugees and migrants in Greece are becoming dangerously overcrowded as border crossings into Macedonia are tightened to stem the flow of arrivals into northern Europe.

As the number of migrants and refugees trapped in Greece because of stringent new border regulations continues to swell, the United Nations warns that Europe is "on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis."

Thousands of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East pour into Greece each day, hoping to continue on their way further north into Europe. But since Balkan nations agreed last week to tighten border restrictions, authorities at the Greek-Macedonian border have allowed at most a handful of people to trickle through Macedonia each day. 

Some 30,000 migrants and refugees are currently stranded in Greece, Reuters reported Thursday, with up to 12,000 of them in a transit camp at the Greece-Macedonia border. 

Greece, facing its own social and economic crisis, is struggling to deal with the large influx of people. The bottleneck is rapidly causing food shortages and rising tensions in Greece's already overcrowded transit camps. Migrants and refugees have staged daily demonstrations to protest the near-absolute closure of the border. A sobering 24,000 migrants and refugees in Greece need housing, U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards said Tuesday

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reaffirmed Thursday that Greece does not have the capabilities to handle the crisis on its own. "We will not allow Greece or any other country to be turned into a warehouse of souls," Tsipras told Reuters. "We are at a crucial moment for the future of Europe. 

A man stands behind a fence near the Greece-Macedonia border. Some 30,000 migrants and refugees are currently stranded in Gre
A man stands behind a fence near the Greece-Macedonia border. Some 30,000 migrants and refugees are currently stranded in Greece -- up to 12,000 of them at the border.

Many of those who ended up stuck in the Mediterranean nation this week are Afghans. Until recently, Balkan nations considered people coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan refugees and allowed them to travel through their countries. Last week, however, those countries started labeling Afghans as economic migrants, barring them entry.

A woman pushes her children in a stroller after they cross the border between Greece and Macedonia. Since Balkan nations
A woman pushes her children in a stroller after they cross the border between Greece and Macedonia. Since Balkan nations agreed last week to tighten border restrictions, authorities on the Greek-Macedonian border have allowed only a handful of people to trickle through Macedonia each day.

On Thursday, the president of the European Union, Donald Tusk, urged those considering travel to Europe, and in particular economic migrants, to forgo the dangerous journey. 

"I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing," Tusk said, according to Reuters

Some 131,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe since the start of the year, of which nearly 120,000 entered through Greece. This year alone, hundreds have died and gone missing on the treacherous journey.

  • A woman walks with a child as she arrives to a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomen
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images
    A woman walks with a child as she arrives to a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni on March 3, 2016. Despite strict new border regulations that allow few to cross, migrants and refugees of all ages continue to make their way to the border.
  • A group of Yazidis from Iraq carrying their few belongings arrive at the makeshift camp.
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images
    A group of Yazidis from Iraq carrying their few belongings arrive at the makeshift camp.
  • Refugee families walk through fields under mountains towards the Greek-Macedonian border.
    Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
    Refugee families walk through fields under mountains towards the Greek-Macedonian border.
  • A woman holding a disabled child waits to cross the Greece-Macedonia border on March 3, 2016. Authorities are only allowing a
    Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
    A woman holding a disabled child waits to cross the Greece-Macedonia border on March 3, 2016. Authorities are only allowing a handful of people to cross each day.
  • A crowd of migrants waits behind a gate in Idomeni, Greece, to cross the border into Macedonia on March 2, 2016. 
    Awakening/Getty Images
    A crowd of migrants waits behind a gate in Idomeni, Greece, to cross the border into Macedonia on March 2, 2016. 
  • People queue for registration documents at the Greece-Macedonia border on March 3, 2016, in Idomeni, Greece.
    Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
    People queue for registration documents at the Greece-Macedonia border on March 3, 2016, in Idomeni, Greece.
  • Smoke rises in the distance behind a woman standing among tents in the makeshift camp in Idomeni. Since the border crossings
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
    Smoke rises in the distance behind a woman standing among tents in the makeshift camp in Idomeni. Since the border crossings have slowed, up to 12,000 people are stuck in the camp. 
  • Thousands of children are among the migrants and refugees stuck at the border. This young girl stands outside her tent o
    Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
    Thousands of children are among the migrants and refugees stuck at the border. This young girl stands outside her tent on March 3, 2016. 
  • A child stands at a gate on the Greek-Macedonian border on March 3, 2016.
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images
    A child stands at a gate on the Greek-Macedonian border on March 3, 2016.
  • An elderly woman carries wood on her head to the makeshift camp in Idomeni. 
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images
    An elderly woman carries wood on her head to the makeshift camp in Idomeni. 
  • A child sits on a woman's shoulders and holds a sign that reads "Open the borders" at the makeshift camp in Idomeni. Migrants
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
    A child sits on a woman's shoulders and holds a sign that reads "Open the borders" at the makeshift camp in Idomeni. Migrants and refugees stuck near the border have staged daily protests condemning their desperate situation. 
  • A migrant child waits to get milk at the overcrowded makeshift camp in Idomeni. The bottleneck in crossing the border&nb
    LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images
    A migrant child waits to get milk at the overcrowded makeshift camp in Idomeni. The bottleneck in crossing the border is rapidly causing food shortages.
  • A young boy sits in front of police officers as a train attempts to pass in Idomeni. 
    Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
    A young boy sits in front of police officers as a train attempts to pass in Idomeni. 
  • A child walks on a train track as migrants and refugees wait to cross the Greek-Macedonian border. EU President Donald Tusk o
    SAKIS MITROLIDIS/Getty Images
    A child walks on a train track as migrants and refugees wait to cross the Greek-Macedonian border. EU President Donald Tusk on March 3, 2016 issued a stark warning to economic migrants not to come to Europe.
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