Greek authorities began the evacuation of the informal refugee camp in Idomeni at dawn Tuesday.
At least four hundred police officers were sent into the camp, which houses an estimated 8,400 people. Greek authorities have assured that no force will be used in evacuating refugees.
The “camp”, an informal settlement that sprang up at a pedestrian crossing between Macedonia and Greece, reached a peak of near 12,000 residents when Macedonia closed its borders in March. Since then, Greece has seen a dramatic upswing in the already persistent problem of homeless refugees, prompting authorities to urge the Idomeni migrants to relocate to established camps.
Some of these mostly Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi refugees have complied with authorities in hopes that the formal camps will offer them better living conditions. But many others remain reluctant to leave as they fear that new camps will be no better or even worse, and that the move will delay their resettlement in Europe.
An agreement was reached between Turkey and the EU in March aimed at stemming the flow of migrants to Greece, in which refugees arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey would face deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.
Few migrants, however, seek asylum in Greece, hoping instead to reach the stronger economies of Germany or Sweden.
Analysts say the presence of 3 million migrants on Turkish soil makes the country the world’s largest host of displaced people — part of what the U.N. calls the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
(Archive photo: Jamie Dettmer/VOA)