What Remains After the Evacuation of Europe's Biggest Refugee Camp


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What Remains After the Evacuation of Europe's Biggest Refugee Camp

Idomeni has been cleared—tents, pots, and children's drawings are scattered around the now empty makeshift camp.
May 27, 2016, 5:50pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

It took three days for the Greek police to complete the evacuation of Europe's largest makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni, next to the border between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. For months, 13,000 people have been trapped there, hoping to cross the border and start a new life in Europe. According to the Greek state news agency, the last 783 refugees, who were in Idomeni until noon on Thursday, boarded 18 buses and were transferred to organized shelters near the city of Thessaloniki.


Back in Idomeni, you could now only hear the noise of trucks trying to clear up what remained of the camp. Scattered across the area were tents, pots filled with food, dolls and toys covered in dust, children's drawings, and strollers.

After the completion of the evacuation on Thursday, the railway line between Belgrade and Thessaloniki reopened. According to Greek economic newspaper Naftemporiki, the closing of Idomeni's train station during the last 70 days has cost the Greek railway authorities about €2.5 million ($2.8 million).

In 2015, more than 800,000 refugees and immigrants had passed through Idomeni following the so-called Balkan Route to central Europe. The borders were closed in the middle of March, which trapped thousands of people on the Greek side. Idomeni—a small Greek village with about a 150 residents—became a symbol of the refugee drama in the Balkans and Europe.

During the three days the evacuation lasted, 3,817 refugees were taken away by buses. But last Monday—one day before the evacuation started—the Greek government announced that about 8,500 refugees were staying in Idomeni. That means that about 5,000 people either left on their own or hid somewhere near the border, hoping to find a way to cross illegally.

Doctors Without Borders denounces the compulsory transfer from Idomeni to organized camps, remarking that there was a general lack of information. On top of that, their workers were restricted from providing any humanitarian assistance to refugees.