terça-feira, 24 de maio de 2016

Idomeni: Greek riot police move in before dawn to clear out refugee camp

Idomeni: Greek riot police move in before dawn to clear out refugee camp

Operation under way to finish relocating around 8,400 people from informal settlement on Macedonian border to purpose-built camps, say Greek authorities

Associated Press in Greece
Tuesday 24 May 2016 05.40 BST

Greek authorities have begun an operation to evacuate the country’s largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni.

The operation began at dawn on Tuesday and journalists were barred from the area. Government and police officials have said the people in Idomeni will be moved gradually to newly completed, organised camps.

About 20 riot police units, comprising a total of about 400 police, were in Idomeni for the operation.

Idomeni is located on the Greek-Macedonian border, where more than an estimated 8,400 people have been living for months.

The government’s spokesman for the refugee crisis, Giorgos Kyritsis, said police would not use force.

The camp sprang up on what began as an informal pedestrian border crossing for refugees and migrants heading north to Europe, is home to an estimated 8,400 people. Greek police and government authorities have said the residents will be moved gradually to newly completed, organised camps.

Journalists were barred from the camp, stopped at a police roadblock a few miles away on a highway junction leading to the nearby village of Idomeni. Twenty buses carrying various riot police units were seen heading to the area while a police helicopter observed from above.

More than 54,000 refugees and migrants have been trapped in financially struggling Greece since Balkan and European countries shut their land borders to a massive flow of people escaping war and poverty at home. The vast majority are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly a million people have passed through Greece, the vast majority arriving on islands from the nearby Turkish coast.

The government has been trying to persuade people staying in Idomeni, who include hundreds of families with young children, to leave the area and head to organised camps. This week it said its campaign of voluntary evacuations was already working, with police reporting that eight buses carrying about 400 people left Idomeni on Sunday. Others took taxis heading to the country’s main northern city of Thessaloniki or a nearby town of Polycastro.

On the eve of the evacuation operation, few at the camp appeared to welcome the news.

“It’s much better here than in the camps. That’s what everybody who’s been there said,” Hind Al Mkawi, a 38-year-old refugee from Damascus, told the Associated Press on Monday evening.

“I’ve heard [of the pending evacuation] too. It’s not good … because we’ve already been here for three months and we’ll have to spend at least another six in the camps before relocation. It’s a long time. We don’t have money or work, what will we do?”

Abdo Rajab, a 22-year-old refugee from Raqqa in Syria, has spent the past three months in Idomeni, and said he was considering paying smugglers to be taken to Germany clandestinely.

“We hear that tomorrow we will all go to camps,” he said. “I don’t mind, but my aim is not reach the camps but to go Germany.”

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