Dashed dreams on Macedonian border

Restrictions have resulted in a build-up of more than 3,000 asylum seekers at the Greek-Macedonian border.

Patrick Strickland, Sorin Furcoi | | Humanitarian crises, Europe, Greece, Refugees

Idomeni, Greece - Guns, masks, batons, shields and newly built barbwire fence stand between refugees and Macedonia.

While Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees are permitted pass at a snail's pace, those who have fled from other countries across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia have been dubbed "economic migrants" by Macedonia and barred from entry.

The restrictions have resulted in a build-up of more than 3,000 asylum seekers at the Greek-Macedonian border. Many of them having risked their lives on dinghies in the Mediterranean Sea and spent their life savings to make it this far.


Read more: Macedonia border closure leaves refugees with no hope


Since Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov announced the closure more than two weeks ago, people continue to pour into the area, often unaware of the new restrictions.

Ivanov said that any more than 2,000 refugees crossing through the country at any given moment would cause "permanent and direct threats and risks for national security".

Although others had heard of the closure before coming to Idomeni, they held out hope that something would give and they would be able to continue their journey to elsewhere in Europe.

The stranded asylum seekers have little access to food and or clean drinking water, and no access to showers.

Sleeping outside through several days of rain and weeks of cold weather, many people are suffering from colds, gastrointestinal illnesses, infections and other ailments, according to Vassilis Naum, from the Doctors of the World organisation.

With tensions high, the asylum seekers have clashed several times with Macedonian border police, who used rubber bullets and tear gas.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Greek police officer in Idomeni told Al Jazeera that the camp may be forcibly evacuated this week.

Greek authorities have urged asylum seekers to go back to Athens and register in processing centres there. Since Thursday, trains have transported hundreds back to the capital.

Said, a 21-year-old from Casablanca, Morocco, went back to Athens last week after waiting in Idomeni with friends for three days. "The border was closed," he told Al Jazeera. "We waited for three days in the rain. I dreamed of making it to Germany. Now I don't know what to tell my family."

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