Monday, January 25, 2016

Can you Help? Demand the Greek government treats refugees more humanely

 Over 1,000,000 million refugees entered Europe in 2015, more than 800,000 chose the Western Balkan route which took them to an obscure railway crossing near the tiny village of Eidomeni on  Greece's northern border with FYR Macedonia.

After a journey from the port of Pireaus that can last up to 20 hours refugees are rushed by the Greek police to the border. Volunteer groups and NGOs at the camp are often given as little as 10 minutes to hand out food, clothing, medical aid and information before crossing over.

There is the constant fear that the government of FYR Macedonia will permanently close down the border with Greece and so leave people stranded. When the border is open or closed seems to be completely at the whim of the FYR Macedonia government  and there is little or no co-operation between the authorities on both sides of the frontier and so little idea when and for how long the crossing remain shut.

For their part the Greek police who control acccess to Eidomeni also refuse to share information with NGOs and volunteer groups over when and how many refugees will be arriving at the camp on any given day, despite the fact that they control the flow from start to finish on the Greek mainland. Indeed since December the attitude of the police has perceptibly hardened, ranging from sullen indifference to active hostility, sometimes kicking out organisations such Médecins Sans Frontières all together, with little or no notice.

To make an already difficult situation worst, the police forbid access to the hot food, doctors, heated tents and other faciities that have been built recently at Eidomeni. Instead refugees are forced to wait endless hours at a road side petrol station/cafe 20km from the site whilst temperatures at night often drop to -15c. Here refugees are obliged to buy food and water whilst just a ten minute ride away volunteers wait to hand out such items at no cost.

Last week over 3,000 people, including many families with very young children were forced to endure extreme cold overnight while the camp remained half empty.

We are calling upon media outlets to highlight this scandalous abuse of refugees by the Greek authorities. The more international pressure is brought upon the SYRIZA government and prime minister, Alexis Tsipras the more likely refugees will receive more humane treatment on the Greek leg of their trek to safety.

Refugee Solidarity Movement Thessaloniki-Eidomeni

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Video: Winter at Eidomeni - Refugees wait to cross the Greece - FYR Macedonia border

Over one million refugees entered Europe in 2015, the vast majority chose the Western Balkan route which leads from the Turkish coast via the Greek islands to Eidomeni, a tiny village on the Greek - FYR Macedonian border. Over 800,000 people have passed through this unofficial crossing point which is little more than a collection of tents armed guards and barbed wire before going on North to their final destination in nations such as Germany, Austria and Sweden.

Since May the Refugee Solidarity Movement Thessaloniki has been offering help to those making the trek north first in the city of Thessaloniki and then from September we have been going to Eidomeni where we serve hot tea and help out the other groups providing food, clothing and information to refugees arriving there.

Video: Refugees crossing the frontier: Eidomeni on the Greek - FYR Macedonian border

Eidomeni, located in northern Greece is a major transit point for refugees trying to reach northern Europe after arriving on the Greek island from Turkey.

Despite temperatures that can fall as low as -16c the Greek police has been refusing to allow those arriving to use the facilities at the camp, which were erected at great expense by international NGOs. Instead of being able to stay in heated tents with time to get hot food, clothing and medical attention people are often kept by the Greek police  for anything up to 20 hours in coaches that have brought them from Athens at a local roadside petrol station - restaurant. This has proved a major source of income for the service station which, otherwise would be quiet at this time of year.

NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and local volunteer groups have repeatedly implored the Greek authorities to change their policy yet to no avail. Instead refugees are rushed through the Eidomeni border crossing in a matter of minutes giving aid groups little time to provide them with food and other forms of aid.

For more on the situation in Eidomeni check out the Refugee Solidarity Movement of Thessaloniki and Eidomeni Facebook.