Greek authorities began an operation at dawn to clear the country’s largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni on the Macedonian border. They blocked access to the area and sent in more than 400 riot police. The government’s spokesman for the refugee crisis, Giorgos Kyritsis, said police would not use force, and that the operation was expected to last about a week to 10 days. The first six buses, which police said were carrying a total of 340 people, left Idomeni just over two hours after the operation began, heading to a new refugee camp near Greece’s main northern city of Thessaloniki.
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?
Hind Al Mkawi, a 38-year-old refugee from Damascus
The camp, which sprung up at an informal pedestrian border crossing for refugees and migrants heading north to Europe, is home to an estimated 8,400 people — including hundreds of children — mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. At its peak, when Macedonia shut its border in March, it housed more than 14,000, but the numbers have declined as people realised the border was shut and began accepting authorities’ offers of alternative places to stay. Journalists were barred from the camp during the evacuation operation, stopped at a police roadblock a few kilometers (miles) away. Twenty buses carrying various riot police units were seen heading to the area while a police helicopter observed from above.