A mass evacuation begun at dawn Tuesday to move refugees at Idomeni to new and better facilities at Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. At least six buses departed from Idomeni with 340 people on board. The refugee camp is said to hold more than 8,000 people comprising mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Giorgos Kyritsis, government spokesman, said “It is still early in the morning, people in Idomeni are waking up and packing their stuff to get on buses waiting to transfer them to transfer them to organized facilities”
The refugee camp is located on the border with Macedonia. In March, Macedonia decided to shut her border and the population in the camp spike to more than 14,000. Many have accepted the offer to be relocated to other places to stay. Some refugees wish to stay hoping the Macedonians will reopen the border.
Conditions of the camp were dire. Cleaners were sent in to help to clean the area and portable toilets were prepared. Heavy rain also created many muddy ponds.
Riot police were deployed but the authorities have assured that no forceful action or violence will take place. Kyritsis mentioned “The evacuation is progressing without any problem.”
Greek authorities have been urging refugees at Idomeni to leave for organized camps but the news was unpleasant to the refugees. Hind Al Mkawi, 38 year old refugee, told The Associated Press that “It’s much better here than in the camps. That’s what everybody who’s been there said.”
Journalists and activists were prevented from entering the camps during the evacuation operation. They had to set up at a police roadblock several kilometers from the camp.