Greece shuts camp Idomeni, a symbol of Europe's migration woes

Greece has completed the evacuation of thousands of people who had been stranded for months at the country's squalid refugee camp at Idomeni.

"The clearing out passed without the use of force," Greek Civil Protection Minister Nikos Toskas told state TV ERT on Thursday.

There were close to 9,000 people in the makeshift camp on Tuesday, when Greek authorities sent police to clear and close it.

Around 3,300 were bussed to facilities elsewhere over the course of the three-day operation. It was unclear where the remaining crowd went; some migrants left on their own, telling reporters that they do not want to go to organized camps, fearing a long stay there. 

Local media said that several groups moved their tents further along the fenced-off border with Macedonia, waiting for an opportunity to cross illegally and continue north.

Camp Idomeni was set up by the UN refugee agency in September, at the peak of the migration wave, to help people trekking along the Balkan route to wealthier northern Europe.

It initially comprised a group of large tents for around 2,000 people staying short-term, as well as medical and legal services.

The population grew rapidly in late 2015 and the conditions turned squalid as Macedonia and other countries began imposing restrictions on migrants entering their territory.

Around 12,000 people were living in the camp when Macedonia closed its border with Greece in March. Entire families had been waiting for weeks to pass.

People stood in queues for hours for food. Their tents and belongings were often soaked in rain showers and they warmed themselves amid toxic smoke by burning plastic and garbage, as wood became scarce.

Despite these miserable conditions, thousands stuck it out until the very end, hoping to beat the odds and continue north - on a trip completed by around a million others before them.

Last update: Thu, 26/05/2016 - 19:44
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