Tag Archives: Idomeni

The Guardian writes:

Rania Mustafa Ali, 20, filmed her journey [in 2016] from the ruins of Kobane in Syria to Austria. She is cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She risks drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with 52. Her footage shows what many refugees face on their perilous journey to Europe.

Escape From Syria was produced and directed by Anders Hammer

Escape From Syria (The Guardian)

Previously: When People Are No Longer Considered People

Meanwhile At The Greece/FYROM Border

UPDATE:

RTE reports:

The Department of Justice has said a further 440 refugees have been cleared to travel from Greece to Ireland, bringing the total to 900.

The Government pledged to take in a total of 4,000 refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

However, just half of that number will have arrived by the end of the year.

Ireland has taken in 1,244 refugees to date from countries such as Syria since the programme was announced in 2015.

There are two separate schemes under which refugees come to Ireland.

Under what is known as the resettlement programme, the Government has committed to taking in 1,040 people from Lebanon.

In total, 785 people have arrived so far and the Government says the remaining 255 will arrive by the end of the year.

440 refugees cleared to travel to Ireland from Greece (RTE)

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Police arriving at the makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni this morning

You may recall a post from March, written by Emma Spence, from Glasgow, Scotland, in which she described the conditions of the makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni, at the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

She wrote it just before the EU/Turkey deal was struck in late March, around the time the border became shut indefinitely to those hoping to cross and continue into Europe.

There are reportedly around 8,000 people currently seeking refuge based at the camp.

But, this morning, the Greek authorities have started to evacuate the camp and move those living there to other army-run camps in Greece.

Damian Mac Con Uladh, an Irish journalist who lives in Greece, spoke to Audrey Carville on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning about the evacuation.

Audrey Carville: “Damian, you like many other journalists, they’re not allowed in or near the camp this morning while this process is going on, why not?”

Damian Mac Con Uladh: “Well the Greek government clearly don’t want too much attention to be drawn to the actual operation. They’ve only allowed journalists from the state TV and from Greece’s news agency although there are some foreign journalists in there. There is a small number in there, some of them are undercover and they intend to report on this operation which has begun this morning and is expected to take a few days.”

Carville: ‘Yeah because there are thousands of people there, aren’t there? Can you take us through generally what’s been happening at the camp today?”

Mac Con Uladh: “Well, news kind of came through in the last two or three days that the site would be evicted. There’s about 8,500 refugees on the border at Idomeni, on the border with Macedonia, and the government says they will be taken to what they say are better-run camps in northern Greece. This has been their position for a long time but most of the refugees are quite reluctant to go to these camps – fearing that once they’re out of public view, they’ll be forgotten about and their chances of moving on to Europe, of rejoining their families in other parts of Europe become more and more difficult. This morning we hear there’s about 1,500 police in the area of Idomeni, including riot police. About 600, up to now, six buses have left the camp with about 350 refugees, taking them to the camp near the city of Thessaloniki.”

Carville: “And what were conditions like at Idomeni, Damian? Were they similar to ‘The Jungle’ at Calais?”

Mac Con Uladh: “Well certainly in the last few days, yes. The weather’s been quite bad in Idomeni so the camp has kind of reverted to these very muddy conditions that characterised it earlier in the Spring. There are NGOs there trying to do, they’re trying to make the best of a very bad lot for the people there but the Government’s argument – that the camps that they will be taken to are better – is disputed by many NGOs. They’ve visited these camps – many of which are run by the army and conditions there are also quite bleak. Some of them are quite remote, the food being provided there is sub-standard in many cases and this is something that the refugees know about and they fear that once they go there, and they’re out of the public view, their plight will become even more difficult.”

Meanwhile, this weekend…

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A screening of Caoimhe Butterly’s documentary The Sea Between Us, filmed in Lesbos, Greece, will take place at The Sugar Club on Lower Leeson Street in Dublin at 1.30pm on Saturday.

It will be followed by a 12-minute sequence entitled “The Border” that reflects the impacts of border closures and the narratives of some of those who have been stuck at Idomeni; a Q&A with Ms Butterly; and a panel discussion with Ronit Lentin, Hassina Kiboua and Ellie Kisyombe, chaired by Betty Purcell.

Pizza and drinks will be provided at the event while tickets (€13) can be purchased here or at the door. All proceeds will go towards grass-roots refugee support projects in Greece.

Also on Saturday, people who have volunteered with refugees across Europe and elsewhere will meet at 12 noon in Houricans pub, beside The Sugar Club – before the film screening – to share their experiences and ideas about how Ireland can respond to the humanitarian crisis.

Listen back in full to Damian Mac Con Uladh’s interview here

The Sea Between Us – Fundraiser (Facebook)

Related: Idomeni: Greek riot police move in to clear refugee camp (The Guardian)

Pic: Jeanne Carstensen

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Carmel Nic Airt, from Clonakilty, West Cork, above left, is currently volunteering in Idomeni at the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The Príomhoide of Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin volunteered on Leros island in March.

This week she returned to Greece – with two trucks of donated clothes and other items to share, including a wheelchair which she gave to Ghazal, a young woman from Syria.

Carmel writes:

“The wheelchair given to Ghazal was originally given to me by a relative of mine. Her brother who had Parkinson’s purchased the chair for himself in London where he lived. He got very little use out of it as he died suddenly not long after it was purchased.”

“I had a man called Yousuf in mind as his story was particularly tragic – he’s 37 years old, he lost both of his legs in a barrel bomb and he has no family. He was an electrical engineer with his own business in the past but he lost everything.”

“I felt he was the man for the chair and decided to try to locate him. However, I discovered that he had been taken to his brother in Germany by air due to a serious medical problem.”

I then saw Palestinian journalist Mohammed Matter’s post on Facebook about Ghazal and how grateful she is to her dad for lifting and carrying her all the way from Syria and promising her that she will get to Germany where she will be treated.”

“I spoke to Mohammed about it and between us we realised we found the right person for the chair.”

Mohammed Matter

Carmel Nic Airt (Island to Island)

Thanks Carmel

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The makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni, at the border of Greece and FYROM

Emma Spence, from Glasgow, Scotland, has been volunteering with the refugees in Greece for the past few months.

She’s currently in Idomeni, at the border between Greece and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 refugees and migrants have been living in squalor for a number of weeks.

Last Tuesday, in defiance of the border being closed, approximately 2,000 refugees walked several kilometres from the makeshift camp in Idomeni in search of a gap in the border.

They did manage to enter FYROM, by crossing a river, only to be rounded up and returned to the camp.

Further to this, and following the EU/Turkey agreement reached on Friday, Emma writes:

The images cannot capture it: the desperation, the push, the fear, the unstoppable movement. Nor can they show the extent, the sheer number of people forming the swollen trail, marching themselves and dragging themselves for 10-15 kilometres over hills and through rivers toward the glimmer of hope that they could pass through an opening in the border fencing, and finally, after weeks of waiting, waiting, in the mud and the cold, move onwards.

The exodus from Idomeni camp, Greece, by the border to the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, on Tuesday, March 14, is estimated to have involved around 2,000-plus people.

No words can capture it.

I was present, witnessing helplessly the people whose tents I have been trudging between for the recent past, now out in the open with their energy vibrating more powerful than anything I had ever seen, overwhelmed by both their strength and by fear at the knowledge of their vulnerability.

Nature can be rough but does not discriminate; border police can be rough, and they do.

Most people had little idea where they were going. They were following the others, traipsing after a tenuous dream. The group was not formed of the young and the able. It comprised everyone. From the fittest who strode on with a sense of elation – finally, movement! – to those leading children, carrying children, the pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled, everyone, they pushed on through mud trails in rain ruined shoes.

Their mission was, in the end, futile.

All who made it through were returned to Greece. Their departure was no surprise to the Greek police, whose buses I saw upon several instances driving past the groups walking, walking, and, on the other side, awaited the Macedonian military.

This group of people did not arrive in Europe to hike through hills to find gaps in fences. They arrived, in pursuit of safety for their lives and those of their families, to follow a route which has become recognised and concretised through the installation of reception and registration centres, which with no warning and no dissemination of information was halted.

Idomeni has therefore now become the interminable waiting place for well around 12,000 people. The camp was designed for a tiny proportion of this number. Last week, estimates peaked at between 14,000 to 15,000; following trickling departures of buses to Athens, the spreading of people to surrounding areas, both to official military-run camps or to unofficial sites at gas stations or hotel car parks, alongside the chaos of the Macedonian flight, the numbers appear to have fallen, but it is almost impossible to call.

The ‘camp’ is a mud-filled, trash-filled, over-filled spread eagle of families crammed into summer-intended tents. The day time is a bustle of queues, of splashing through mud-lakes, of children falling out of tents and playing in ditches, of over-crowded distributions, of acrid camp-fires of firewood, broken pallets, branches, paper, dirty clothes, discarded packaging, plastic, and rubble; people walking, talking, running, shouting, over one another: there is nothing to do, other than stand outside, sit in a tent, build a fire, or wait. Wait for a sandwich, wait for a blanket, wait exhaustedly for a future.

The night time is a retreat to huddle inside under grey blankets, the billowing smoke of remaining fires hanging languidly over tent-tops, the constant coughs, splutters, cries of infants.

There is no information. Nobody knows. Everyone asks: when can we go? When can we go? We can’t live here. We can’t stay here.

Over one week ago, after the first heavy rains, I stood in Idomeni amongst the fabric sprawl that tumbles across fields, skirts the edges of rubb halls, skirts the wire fences which form distribution queues, backs into portable toilets, halves roadways, lines the railtracks, rolls back and back a ten-minute walk to the disused train station where abandoned trash-filled houses sit families in their corners and further back again as the tracks curve into the woods and tree branches are the props for impromptu shelters, swathes of rainbow splashes across bog-like grass divided by newly formed mud-lakes, and the thought came to me: these people have fled here across the sea in rubber dinghies, before which they fled war and fear, and now, here, under our noses, arriving to ‘safety’, they are faced with conditions worth fleeing – except, they have nowhere to go, no way to get there.

Two days ago, after a full week of heavy rain, their tents swimming in water and swimming in trash, it no longer mattered whether they had nowhere to go or no way to go there. They were going to walk there anyway.

I am only an individual. My view is small, biased, skewed, subjective. Words tend to lean towards a form of melodrama. However, at Idomeni, these categories are being surpassed, destroyed.

When thousands of exhausted people attempt to cross a churning, fast-flowing river, the current pushing against their tired legs as their tired arms hold their children above their heads, and they do this because they have been weeping for days for their children’s safety in damp, cold, dirty tents, straightforward ‘reality’ has mutated into something other.

The point is: this is not cinematic, this is not novelistic, this is not melodrama. This is the actual circumstance of each person’s life. And I would defy anyone to find me an individual who could stand before this mess, and with their own small, biased, skewed, subjective view, fail to find these living conditions anything other than horrendous.

One’s small, biased, skewed, subjective view could go further, and get mired in the politics of borders.

The last days have witnessed many extremely questionable decisions being taken as to the future of the apparently defunct Balkan route, and the extent of return agreements between the EU and Turkey.

These decisions form the entirety of people’s lives, and the dignity and security therein. Each person is a person, not a piece of currency, not the leverage of deal-makers. Or, as we are now being forced to consider: each person should be a person.

This move to the conditional indicates the dire level to which the politics of this situation have sunk. Aside from this political ‘bigger picture’, in the very concrete here and now, Idomeni is beyond questionable, unquestionable, there is no question. It is a disaster-site. It is squalor. The people have been abandoned as non-people, as inanimate bit-parts of a system that is now to be dismantled and disposed.

The destruction of this system is so essential that well beyond 10,000 people can be left to rot in the mud, not to mention the tens of thousands stranded across the rest of Greece.

Some aspects of this crisis are immersed in complications. Some aspects are so utterly simple, are the very basics of human safety and respect. A canvas roof to cover a child’s head should not be a preferential situation, it is the absolute minimum.

If Europe can throw billions at ‘protecting its borders’ but cannot hand over a few thousand to erect some liveable tents, this is a Europe in which actual human lives have ceased to matter.

There is no way to emphasise it enough to make it real. There are no words. A generalised description ignores the particularity of each individual, specific anecdotes exclude the masses.

Today I met, homeless, bedless, floorless: an eight-month pregnant woman with fever; seven adults sharing a three-person tent; a family of five with three infants, the mother, four-months pregnant, whose tent no longer has a door; a boy of ten or eleven I met two weeks ago who described to me being carted back from Macedonia in the back of a green truck packed with ‘hundreds’ of people; three different women whose husbands are in Germany, who had gone ahead to make homes for their families, from whom they are now stranded.

There follows a semi-constant stream of “hello-hello, how are you” and children who parrot “I love you, I love you, how are you, I am fine”; and everywhere is another story, everyone is another real individual, whose life has been reduced to the damp interior of a stale smelling tent and sliding and sticking through the mud to reach a rank smelling portaloo.

What people are being subjected to is not natural. It is not the natural ‘way of things’ that people have to put on fake lifejackets to travel petrified across the sea in the dark for thousands of euros.

I crossed the same route safely for twenty five. And it’s not the natural ‘way of things’ that people wait cramped for three or four weeks in a thin tent in a field with no information.

That only becomes the way of things when people are no longer considered as people. This backlog of tens of thousands in Greece created by the border closures imposed further down the line has created a crisis situation, but I cannot for a second believe that Europe does not have the resources or capacity to act.

So, every decision is political; permanent infrastructure is resisted because the creation of a permanent camp is not to be encouraged. Thus, once again, the decision-making process as to how people are to be treated and the value of their safety is relocated once again from the human level to a logistical level of keeping people out, whatever it takes, so that we can look the other way calmly, decide that the problem is now elsewhere, the pain is now elsewhere, the pain no longer exists.

Except: there are thousands of children sleeping in the cold, the damp, in their dirty clothes, in a thin tent in stagnant mud tonight, and it’s nowhere else but right here.

MSF Sea

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After days, and in some cases weeks, of up to 14,000 refugees and migrants waiting in deplorable conditions in Idomeni, journalists and volunteers working on the ground are reporting that thousands have started to march towards the border.

The Greek/FYROM border was closed off completely last week.

TIME reporter Simon Shuster tweetz:

“I’m with mass of refugees from Idomeni trying to walk through hills to Macedonia…Idomeni break-out today well-organised. Fliers printed out by refugees tell 1000s to walk to Germany. So far, so good. Police staying back.”

“Few dozen Greek police just tried and failed to block 100s of refugees breaking out of Idomeni. March continues. Local police chief on refugees breaking through: “Our orders are, No violence. That’s what Athens says. So what can we do?”.”

“March of refugees looks to be in 1000s now, more joining. Police drones monitoring progress toward Macedonia. Flier calling for refugees to march said: Germany wants to take you, Balkans only want money. If 1000s march, borders will open (paraphrase).”

Pics: Simon Shuster, Jim KroftDimitri Tosidis

Video: Fotomovimiento