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Brief Report from Eidomeni

Saturday and Sunday, January 23rd and 24th, 2016

With temperatures nearing -15 degrees Celsius, people continue coming into the area.

Today, from noon onwards, tens of buses were stationed at the usual gas stations. At around 11:00 at night, there were 40 buses in the area. The cold cannot be tolerated. The NGOs have been distributing provisions in an attempt to help the people. There were many cases that needed immediate intervention, such as newborn babies, because the bus driver decided to lock them out of the bus.

There are 6 tents in the camp with a capacity of around 600 and 1.500, depending on the situation. Today, for the first time, bunk beds were placed in the area, limiting the capacity but improving the conditions of stay for the people who have already gone through so much. Also for the first time, heaters were placed outside of the police’s container today for the people waiting in line.

The border was closed from the afternoon until late at night. At around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, the border police of FYROM announced that they would be accepting 100 people every half hour, a time frame that was not strictly adhered to. Thus until 3 a.m., around 35 groups had passed (meaning around 1.700-2.000 people).

From 8 a.m. on Saturday to 8 a.m. on Sunday, it is estimated that around 6.500-7.000 arrived in the area, from which 3.500 crossed the borders. Around 2.500 people wait in the gas station, while 600 to 800 people are in the campsites.

At the border checkpoint

The procedures that take place at the border are as follows: the refugees from the Greek side are also accompanied by, besides police, members of organization like PRAKSIS and ARSIS-when there are unaccompanied minors. The FYROM police ask for passports, a requirement which can cause problems. One characteristic example is that of a shipwreck survivor from Iran, who lost his official documents at sea and does not have anything to show the FYROM police.

Problems persist with those who have been registered as Palestinians, especially when they lived in Syria before, or with Afghans who have been registered as Iranian. Today, after many conversations and phone calls, a Palestinian family which had passports and Syrian identity cards crossed the border.

Journalists are prohibited by Greek authorities to take pictures.

One of the founders of the Legis organization published that the FYROM police mentioned to the organization that “men traveling alone” would not be permitted to cross! There have been other similar articles.

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Temperatures at night were as low as -13 degrees Celsius. The border opened every 40 minutes and strictly for 50 people at a time. From 3 a.m. until 6 a.m. on Saturday, they opened every hour.

The documents of all those who seek to cross the border are checked by the Greek authorities, who list each person’s final destination. People usually state Austria or Germany as their final destination.

There are signs that people who do not come from the three countries from which crossing is tolerated stay in the area attempting to cross from another point in the border. Witness accounts and testimonies indicate that there is use of force on the other side of the fence. Extreme use of violence and even shooting is mentioned in many of the testimonies.

The people stop at the gas stations until the campsite ‘empties’ out and they can be “hosted” in the heated tents. As soon as a bus comes to the area of the campsite, the people disembark and form a line in front of the police’s container. They communicate with the police through the container window, usually with the help of translators from the NGOs. After the authorities check their country of origin, at the bottom of the document they write: “Based on their statements, final destination is Germany or Austria.” They then stamp the travel document and that specific phrase and then the person is directed to the campsite.

It should be noted that whoever has a travel document that lists a country of origin from one of the three countries (Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan), is led to the side around a fire, until they board a bus heading to Athens again.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

At around 2 p.m., the campsite to Eidomeni opened, after attempts and pressure from the NGOs, so that the people waiting at the gas stations can be hosted. Thus for a few hours, the campsite hosted around 600 people and around 12 buses, which had stopped at the gas station. 10 more buses arrived until midnight. They also stopped at the gas stations, expecting the border to open.

The buses are privately-owned. Each passenger pays for his/her ticket themselves to arrive here. If, for whatever reason, they are not permitted to cross the border, they return to Athens with a privately-owned bus again for which they pay the same ticket price.

Since today, (20/1/2016), it was decided that recording the final destination on travel documents, with a stamp from the Greek authorities no less, was mandatory. Thus, aside from a country of origin, a final destination, in other words the country in which they will ultimately be accepted to, is also necessary in order to cross the border.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

The evacuation of the camp in Eidomeni on December 9th, 2015 created a new situation which could mean the end of the period of entrapped people, while simultaneously signaling the prohibition of the use of the refugee camp. The crossing of those who come from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan continued until today, until around 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. when the border closed. The explanation given, according to reports, was traffic congestion on the national railway line in Slovenia due to train damage.

This resulted in buses filled with passengers being stationed at the well-known gas station on the national highway, around 20km before the village of Eidomeni, in temperatures that reached as low as -9 degrees Celsius.

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Δίκτυο Καταγραφής Περιστατικών Ρατσιστικής ΒίαςEuropean Council on Refugees and ExilesEuropean Network on StatelessnessSeperated Children in Europe ProgrammeEuro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

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