In a desperate situation, without the basic living conditions, in thin tents on open ground 14,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq are spread across a field in Idomeni, waiting on European leaders, who are in Brussels deciding whether to “seal” the Balkan Route, and what to do with the thousands of refugees stranded in Idomeni. Even though the conditions in the camp are horrendous, insufficient food and water, not enough places for people to sleep, the refugees still do not want to be transferred to reception centres across Greece, they would rather wait at the border, so they can continue their journey to Germany, Austria and Sweden.
The Meta team noticed long queues everywhere. Everyone is waiting for something. Some are waiting for up to two hours for food, two hours for water, hours for a toilet, or a doctor, and waiting days to enter Macedonia.
Kemal, a 23 year old student from Damascus, said that although the conditions at the camp were terrible, he has decide to stay and wait for the borders to open, and he hopes that the decision will be made today’s summit in Brussels.
“I am from Syria, and i have been here for four days. The situation here at the camp is really bad, we are just waiting for them to open the border. I want to go to Germany, some of my family are there and friends. From Damascus to here it cost 3000 dollars. I am 23 years old, and in Syria I was a Law student at the University of Damascus. The situation back there is awful, there is so much blood, many people are dying, its being bombarded constantly. Everything which is bad, is in Syria. I sleep in this tent with my brother and a friend. I don’t get food, i buy food instead because the queues for food are so long, for one sandwich you might wait up to tow hours, same with the water. I have not had a shower in four days. We are waiting for Monday to come and for the summit of leaders, and I hope they will decide to open the border so we can continue our journey” said Kemal.
Babar Boloch, a spokesman for UNHCR told “Meta” that the camp at Idomeni does not have the conditions for accommodating thousands of refugees who keep coming every day, from Thessaliniki or Athens.
According to him, the situation is really worrying and only the only solution for now is to take the refugees into shelters because there are many families with young children who require special care, and in Idomeni there is not much one can do. Children are the first to welcome visitors through the camp . Some of them are shy, some smile and greet you with a “hello” in English.
“There are many children who travel alone, but in all this chaos, they made it here, its hard to find them all. Around 45%-50% from all the people are women and children, and they need special care.All are hoping to cross the border, but it is not happening now. This is not a good place for people to stay long term. It is not hygienic, children can easily get sick. If they are not transferred to proper shelters, health issues especially among women and children and can only get worse. The Refugees are eager and all want to be here to cross the border when opened. The situation is dire. Greece is struggling to cope with the situation, but it is obvious that they can not cope”, adds Baloch.
Despina Filipidaki, the coordinator of the Red Cross told “Meta” that 37%-40% of all refugees in Idomeni are children.
“A large number of the refugees are children. We help with medication, medical support, we hand out baby food, hygienic products. Most of the children we do see have respiratory problems or a temperature. We have problems sometimes with pregnant women, but we present to local hospitals. However the hospital can only do so much. Diseases associated with weather conditions – if a hot sunstroke, dizziness, burns and leg injuries”, she says
Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas said that in the up coming weeks, 16,000 places for refugees will be opened as temporary shelters. He pointed out that refugees from Idomeni must be redistributed to these shelters.
“Refugees must be transferred to reception centers around Idomeni and therefore , it would be easier to work this way, once we know the figure, we can transfer the right number of refugees to the border”, pointed Vitsas.