Thousands see chance of crossing Greek border evaporate

Refugees waiting in poor conditions as Macedonian frontier remains closed for second day

Thousands see chance of crossing Greek border evaporate

World Bulletin / News Desk

Thousands of refugees stranded at the Greece-Macedonia border faced decreasing prospects of crossing the frontier in their march to northern Europe on Tuesday.

Border gates remained shut for the second day, Greek police said, leaving around 14,000 camped out in dire conditions near the village of Idomeni.

Macedonia had previously let a trickle of people across the border but on Monday even that number was barred from passing as heavy rain added to the misery of those waiting at makeshift camps with limited supplies.

“This is a transit and not a refugee camp, it cannot support so many people,” Cristian Reynders, a coordinator with Doctors without Borders, told Anadolu Agency.

“Sixty percent of the population here are women and children. On March 4 alone we treated 60 children under five years of age. We deal mostly with respiratory infections and gastroenteritis caused by the poor sleeping and sanitary conditions. People sleep in humidity, under heavy weather.”

The deteriorating situation at the border, which used to mark the initial stage of the Balkans route for refugees heading for Germany and other northern EU states, came as Turkey and the EU negotiated on a solution to the refugee crisis that has dominated European politics for the past year.

Macedonia is among the countries to have imposed increasingly severe border restrictions in recent months, causing a bottleneck of people in Greece.

At least 34,000 are now trapped across Greece, according to the Interior Ministry.

“We, as a humanitarian actor, are doing our best to restore human dignity but we are not the solution,” Reynders said. “We urge EU leaders to reach a solution based on solidarity and human needs.”

By Tuesday, the EU and Turkey agreed in principle that Turkey would take back thousands of “irregular” migrants. So far this year, close to 132,000 refugees have arrived in Greece having crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey in often flimsy and dangerous boats. More than 440 have died during the crossing or are listed as missing.

“I think the results of the summit could only be described as a step forward,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in Brussels.

“If some believe that the problem is not about European culture and the future of the EU, they make a big mistake for which EU will pay a very high price.”

The Greek premier visited Izmir on Turkey’s western coast on Tuesday, where he was due to meet his Turkish counterpart Ahmed Davutoglu for the second time in two days.

EU leaders are due to meet again next week to finalize the refugee plan.

In the meantime, the Greek authorities are planning to build more shelters to the south of the border in expectation of fresh arrivals.

Last Mod: 09 Mart 2016, 09:19
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