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Tag: refugees


Bottleneck Human Tragedy at #Idomeni

Originally posted March 11, 2016

Idomeni, Greece by Dr. Bill Dienst

The border at the village of Idomeni between Greece and Macedonia was sealed with a barbwire fence about 4 weeks ago. Meanwhile, the refugee population has exploded exponentially. A week ago, there were about 5 thousand people living in tents. Today there are over 15 thousand refugees officially; but some estimates put the number at over 20 thousand lost souls aspiring for a better future free from poverty and war. The future is totally uncertain for these people at this point.

Three days ago, about 500 refugees were allowed to cross into the Republic of Macedonia on their way to Serbia, Slovenia, Austria and ultimately Germany or other locations in Northern Europe. This number of people allowed passage is markedly diminished from the thousands that were crossing daily before. Today, that number is zero. On March 8th, the border was completely sealed for refugees. The EU is putting pressure on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees crossing into the Greek Islands. So now refugees are being stranded in both Turkey and Greece.

According to sources we interviewed here in Idomeni, members of the Greek Army and Police arrived 3 days ago and blocked the highway heading North to the Macedonian border. Afghans were forced out of the area back to Athens and other unknown destinations.



Based on a walk through visit of the Idomeni camps yesterday, we are seeing that the majority of refugees remaining are now Syrians, with a minority from other ethnicities. Current UNHCR reports are that about 60% of the refugees remaining in Idomeni are Syrians, the remaining 40% are split among other ethnicities: Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Moroccans, etc. 63% of the current population are women and children.

According to Spanish journalist Juan Naza who works for a Russian news agency and who has been in the Idomeni area for 10 days, there is a general lack of information among the refugees. Some have been stranded here for over 3 weeks and the majority don’t know what to believe or what to do. Some have the ability to search the internet, but many don’t even know how to go about consulting the UN about how to proceed.

DSCN1537Medecins San Frontiere has erected 8 giant tents that shelter about 250 refugees each. UNHCR is deploying additional tents for families, and about half the remaining refugees are in individual tents scattered haphazardly in different makeshift zones now designated as Areas A, B, C, D and E. The tents generally do not have fly tents, so the rain soaks through. It has been cold and raining very hard for the past few days and so everyone is getting thoroughly muddy and drenched. Many people don’t have tents at all. The railway station at Idomeni is no longer functioning. Trains are being bypassed around Idomeni. Its platform, relatively dry ground, has become completely covered with tents and temporary shelters. The snack bars are still functioning, currently chock full of people trying to stay dry.

UNHCR and MSF have erected feeding tents. People cue for over an hour to receive a sandwich, an orange and water. For many this is the only meal that they receive for the day. Some other volunteer organizations are providing additional hot meals as well. Limitations in food supply are being burdened by rapid expansion in demand, and the fact that MSF and UNHCR are facing multiple refugee crises around the world. Some, like in Sudan, are bigger than here. The EU is also trying to provide additional funds, but that demands a political process between the Left and the Right. In Greece, the far-right party are saying things like: “All of Greece will become like Idomeni if we allow this to go on.”

MSF has erected portable toilets and showers, but the showers only run cold water, so many people are going without bathing, and hygiene is suffering. A large portion of the population are suffering from upper respiratory infections.

The Greek government has also deployed security police, but they too are feeling overwhelmed, with about 40-50 officers for 20 thousand refugees.

There are now moves by the Greek government to set up reception centers along the lines of what we witnessed in Idomeni. (See previous article by Kirsten Senturia, “A day in the Life of a Refugee in Moria Camp.” ) The advantage of these reception centers, often placed on military bases, is that there is more order, and some hygiene measures can be better implemented, but at a cost of personal autonomy for the refugees. But many of these reception centers are located in the middle of nowhere. Some refugees are grudgingly returning to Athens, at a cost of 35 Euros each for bus tickets.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now saying that it is a mistake to close the Balkan route to Northern Europe. But solutions to this humanitarian crisis remain murky.

Humanitarian AidRefugeesUncategorized

Information on Refugee Crisis

This is a link to a good information source about the refugee crisis in Greece and the humanitarian response.

Refugee Flows to Lesvos: Evolution of a Humanitarian Response


From Career Woman To Refugee

GLOBAL EXCLUSIVE: From Career Woman To Refugee – The 1,500 Mile Journey Of One Syrian Mother

Corinne Redfern 13:36 | 03 Dec 2015

What drives a woman to leave her home and country in the dead of night and become a refugee? Corinne Redfern travelled from Greece to Germany with pregnant Aysha and her two young children to find out why she left Syria – and what the future holds for her.
syrian mother
‘I DON’T LIKE TO THINK OF MYSELF AS A REFUGEE. I used to live in a lovely part of Aleppo, and I spent my twenties studying human research, travelling the country and working as a civil engineer for the government. I met my husband six years ago, when I was 34. He was a doctor, but I remember being introduced to him and not being that fussed. He, on the other hand, pretty much immediately asked to marry me. Eventually I gave in – I think I knew inside he was The One. From then on, we were inseparable. Our house was old and beautiful, with huge, high ceilings, white walls and tiled floors. We spent our days at work and our evenings with friends – eating out, listening to music… being normal.

To continue to the full article, click here.


Calm before the storm? Mission Update 12/3/2015


Hi all,

As we gaze towards the Turkish coast, we see the Turkish Coast Guard trolling back and forth all day…and almost no arrivals on this side. Oxy camp is empty. We did some minor jobs and drove down the coast to Skala Camp, also quiet.

Yesterday we helped the Greek Coast Guard to process a group of 74 they had picked up offshore. The buses picked them up by noon and by five o’clock we saw three of the men when we visited Moria Camp, which is nearly empty. Those three men were already being registered, showing how fast the processing has become.

After visiting a likewise-quiet Kara Tepe Camp, we went to the ferry terminal and saw probably a thousand or two refugees queued up to board the 8:00 pm boat to Athens. Our wonderful Arabic speakers assisted in helping sort out some confusion and aiding passengers own what to do.

Today we saw the massive dump site where discarded life vests have been deposited. It really provides a startling visual representation of the population that has fled their violent homelands through this poor island.

Despite their dire economic situation, the Greeks have demonstrated many acts of kindness and humanity. One minor example is that restaurant owners show their support of our efforts with a discount on meals.

No one knows if or when the boats will start arriving again But most believe they will. It is getting very cold, one cannot cross in rubber boats without getting soaked, and nighttime crossings will be terrible, especially for vulnerable children and elderly. We remain vigilant  the next call.


These photos were taken by Sharif at the harbor. The volunteers helped get the refugees dried and warm. We have extra clothes if they need to change out of wet clothes. The mylar emergency blankets are really helpful because they are small, light, and easy to transport.

Lesvos1 Lesvos2 Lesvos3


Greece Mission Update 12/1/2015


Hi all,

We we worked a big boat this morning that may have been overloaded with as many as 250 Kurds. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTxYwLGl1Y0

Later, while we were at Lighthouse beach, we saw the big Greek navy ship go by. With binoculars we could see refugees on the aft deck. We raced off for the harbor only to find they were heading for the customs dock down the coast, so we raced over there. We got there just before the ship did and were able to help the Afghans.

We briefly helped back at the harbor after dinner with a small group.

It is clear that the agreement with Turkey is not going to stop the flow for some time though it has slowed considerably. The Turks will have to make life awfully enticing to make the refugees want to stay. How much can 3 billion  for 2.2 million refugees do?

We stopped by Oxy camp before returning to the hotel but nothing was happening there. Basel was then off to pick up Sharif at the airport.



Greece Mission Update 11/29/2015

This is an update sent to us by one of our Greece mission volunteers. His next post will be posted immediately after this, with photos taken just yesterday.



Hi all,

Lively day today with lots of boats. It was the first time that the new team was all together. The first boat that we met was along the road to Scala. The weather was beautiful but the refugees came ashore wet and shivering.

We then went farther down the road where other boats were arriving but there were plenty of volunteers there. As we were about  turn around and head to the harbor, our Greek lifeguard friends shouted, “Stop that car!” A small pickup was leaving the scene and we gave chase. It was some locals who had stolen a refugee’s backpack. We overtook and stopped them and the lifeguards gave them a tongue lashing.

The bulk of our day was spent working two groups brought to the harbor by the Coast Guard. Their boats were taking  water so of course they were soaked. One guy had been in the water alone for over an hour and was found by chance.

The end of the day was spent with a shift at Oxy camp but Nick and Olivia just saw a couple of kids there with Tarek translating. We filled the time until the end of the shift sorting meds.

Regardless of the agreement with Turkey we don’t expect things to quiet down…

That’s all for now