4 March 2016
Tension broke out in Idomeni (Greece) on Sunday 28 February when a group of refugees, who were stranded at the border, staged a protest, asking to be allowed to pass through FYROM to continue on their journey. The Macedonian police, in response to the refugees who were stationed on the railway line and who tried to tear down the barbed-wire fence used tear gas to disperse the crowd. MSF reported to Human Rights Watch that after the incident they treated 22 people for respiratory problems and for injuries caused by rubber bullets, some of the victims were children.
According to MSF, the Idomeni camp, designed to accommodate around 2,500 people, is now housing approximately 10,000 people, seven times over its original capacity. Those who do not have a tent had to spend several nights outdoors in freezing temperatures. “Trapping asylum seekers in Greece is an unconscionable and short-sighted non-solution that is causing suffering and violence” said Eva Cossé, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch. Humanitarian organisations and volunteers are relentlessly distributing hot food and drinks, blankets and toys for children, but their resources are swiftly depleting.
In the past two weeks stricter measures have been implemented by the countries on the “refugee route”, thus hindering access to protection. “Tragically, there seems to be more willingness among European countries to coordinate blocking borders than to provide refugees and asylum-seekers with protection and basic services” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece.
On 2 March the European Council announced the creation of a new emergency instrument to address the humanitarian crisis within the EU, which will allocate 700 million euros over the next three years. Humanitarian organisations such as UN agencies and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies will assist with this operation.