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Brief Report from Eidomeni (February)

Monday, February 29th, 2016

The delays, the harsh conditions, and the hopes and desire of thousands of people have led them to attempt to cross the border through breaking down its “door”. This is an iron door that was put up to create a path in the fence for trains to pass.

The authorities’ response was stun grenades and tear gas. People began to disperse while many children were injured in their attempt to run through the crowd. Many were separated from their families for a little while.

Hundreds of protesters remained near that point in the border for hours after the embroilment.

Fatigue, long waiting periods and hope, all push them to not think of themselves and to disregard their physical wellbeing.



Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Today there are around 7.000 at the borders while many continue to approach the area by foot.

Hundreds of people wait at the border gate, some of whom from the most vulnerable communities such as persons with disabilities, cancer patients, etc. The borders opened for a short period of time and entry was permitted to around 300 people.  Since yesterday (26/2), unaccompanied minors are prohibited from entry.

Tensions are running high and people are especially worn down with one hope: to cross the border. There continues to be a shortage of tents and blankets. There are also serious food shortages, as needs continue to increase with more people arriving in Eidomeni. We note that all the more frequently, these needs are not being met from the organizations and volunteer groups present and available for aid in Eidomeni.

People wait for the borders to open while gathering information on possible alternative courses of action. The need for widespread information cannot be met due to the large number of those waiting, while it is understandable that often people are asking for the same information from multiple sources. The information requested is related to relocation and the asylum process in Greece.

Particularly alarming is the issue of unaccompanied minors, especially those who have been registered as adults. Persons with health concerns remain in the area despite the difficulties faced and the lack in provision of health services.

A woman with three children was asking for information regarding what she can do if she does not cross the borders. They were stressed and in a state of confusion. “…Having information as to what I can do is the most important thing for me and my children. I am much calmer now that I know what my children and I can do.”

An 18-year-old from Syria was saying, “I can’t believe that some countries dictate my life and decide for me. I am very confused, I don’t know what do, I want to make the decisions about my life only after I have all the information.”

Friday, February 26th, 2016

The rain made the already disorderly situation more difficult in the transit site, where it is estimated that there are more than 4.000 people and more arriving by foot.

The borders remained closed throughout the day. The situation in the transit site is very bad. People are sleeping on the floor with only blankets. There is a large shortage of tents and other basic necessities. There are many obstacles to food distribution as there are not enough servings for everyone. The rain made the situation more difficult, especially for those who did not have tents.

The long wait of people at the transit site partnered with the lack of information and provisions, leads to a situation of unwilling passivity. There are more than a few instances of people who stare into the void, as though they are not waiting for anything, while things like the sound of a voice can put people on edge and cause arguments.

Today a few Afghans departed from the transit site with buses. They spent the night at the Auto Repair Station of Polykastro, while the next day they were transported from the center to Nea Kavala.

We are deeply concerned about this entire situation, especially with the lack of information for the people waiting, and the shortages regarding basic necessities. In particular, we have discovered a plethora of vulnerable cases that arrive at the area and remain without any protection.

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

The situation continues to be disorderly, with a large number of people at the transit site. It is estimated there around 4.000 people at the campsites, while more do not stop coming by foot.

The borders were closed for many hours today and only 400 people were permitted to cross to FYROM.

The organizations have started to limit their shifts, especially during the night, due to the launch of relocation center in Diavata. The night presented a high demand for tents and blankets, as the capacity of those that were available was around 1700 people. At the Auto Repair Station of Polykastro there were some buses with drivers who had not been given instructions as to what to do with their passengers.

Throughout the night, there is an attempt to transport Afghans away from the area. Four buses left for Athens.  

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

In the early afternoon, one more attempt was made to transport Afghans away from the Auto Repair Station of Polykastro. Today launched the relocation center in Diavata, which hosted people that had been found on the road with the ultimate aim to go to Eidomeni. The hosting structures were deemed insufficient to meet the needs of the population that will stay there for an indefinite amount of time. Some of the organizations are limiting their presence at Eidomeni to support the increasing population in other areas, such as in Diavata, with all what this entails for the people at the Eidomeni.

Throughout the day, 250 people crossed the border.

Monday, February 22nd-Tuesday February 23rd, 2016

Transit site © GCR

On Monday, there were around 6.000-7.000 people at the transit site of Eidomeni and at the Auto Repair Station of Polykastro.

Many Afghans staged a sit-in, expressing their dissatisfaction because they are prohibited from crossing the border. In the early afternoon, they held a protest from the transit site to the borders and eventually camped in front of the border and its railway lines. Some minors attempted to climb over the door. The FYROM authorities led them to the makeshift houses that had been placed at the borders where they proceeded to hit them and then returned them to Greece. One of the people was an unaccompanied minor and the rest were young men.

On Monday night, more than 500 people had set up tents at the border, among them families and unaccompanied minors.

On Tuesday at around 5:30 a.m. began the operation to evacuate the routes and Site B at the transit site of the Eidomeni, areas that hosted primarily Afghan nationals. The authorities surrounded the people on the routes and site B, and began to lead them towards the buses, which were headed to Athens.

The incidences of violence towards people who resisted were limited, and it seemed that this operation’s aim was to lead a peaceful departure. The organizations did not separate from the authorities even though the road towards the village of Eidomeni was closed. Families with children, unaccompanied minors and the elderly (seniors) were crying and yelling. Their only request was to continue their journey with dignity.

The first buses departed at around 9 in the morning. The rest of the people waited for many hours in the railroad lines, surrounded by the authorities. On the organizations’ initiative, water and food was distributed. Among those people were unaccompanied minors, which we informed and were subsequently put into protective custody for their stay in the campsites.

Hundreds of people at the transit site are asking for information with regard to the documents that are needed, aside from the travel documents (such as a passport and identity card). There were many requests for blankets and tents, as the present host structures could not accommodate everyone.

At around 1 p.m., the border opened again for Syrians and Iraqis. The Afghan’s departure from the Auto Repair Station of Polykastro began at the same time. The reports from organizations that were present note that the people were led out violently.

29 buses left in total. Led to the buses alongside Afghan nationals were also those that had been returned from FYROM due to “illegal entry”.  

This discharge separates families that had been in different places throughout the course of this operation. There is no concern for the unaccompanied minors in the area and they were taken from the area by the buses headed towards Athens. The same applies for other vulnerable cases such as persons with disabilities, women traveling alone, single-parent families, etc.


Up until nighttime, Around 150 to 200 people crossed the borders. The checks at the border as well as at the refugee camp at Gevgelija delay the procedures.

On Tuesday morning there are around 400 people at the transit site. The borders remain closed for many hours. Until Tuesday night, 250 people have passed. 

Buses have been stopped at various points in the national highway from Athens all the way to Pieria, as well as other various cities like Grevena and Kozani. These buses are not headed to Eidomeni.

“I have been here since Sunday. Remember when I lied to you that I have an uncle because I knew I could leave by myself. I did not want to stay, I wanted to leave. I tried to cross the border gate on Monday but the police hit me a lot and then returned me back to Greece. I tried and now I know I did everything I could to get closer to my dream. I wanted and want to leave but some decided that I am staying here. Now I have started to be scared for myself. I am scared about what will happen and that’s why I want the protection of someone beside me.” Unaccompanied minor who went to be put in protective custody. He was found a little while before he boarded to the bus to Athens.

“My husband participated in the protests at the borders. I stayed in the big tent with my parents. I couldn’t leave them. I didn’t have time to understand what was going on. Early in the morning I saw my husband being dragged towards the buses. They didn’t let him speak to me. We were left alone, I don’t know where he will go so we can go and find him. My father-in-law is sick.” A woman from Afghanistan was separated from her husband during the operation. A few hours later she got in touch with her husband. 

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Καθιστική διαμαρτυρία ©

In the morning, 68 buses (with around 4.000 to 4.500 people) were at the rest stop in Polykastro, and four more were stationed inside the transit site. A group of Afghans at the campsite are staging a sit-in, in front of the police’s container, because the police have been prohibiting them from crossing the borders since yesterday. 

Few people are allowed to cross the borders, in set time frames, and only those from Syria and Iraq. The border checkpoint procedures, aside from requiring specific documents (travel document that notes country of destination and a passport) also include a body search.

From early in the morning, people begin on foot the journey from the rest stop in Polykastro to Eidomeni, which spans a distance of around 25 km. Until noon there are more than 1500 people on the road. Later in the afternoon people begin to reach the transit site. When 11:00 p.m. comes around, the area is packed.

It is estimated that around 800 people crossed the border within the 24 hours of February 21st. From today’s departures at the ports, buses did not approach the area given the already large number of people there.

Families continue to be separated as some members have passports when other members only have travel documents from the Greek authorities. Extremely important to note is the issue of unaccompanied minors, who are by now all the more frequently identified, due to their inability to cross the border. At this point it should be noted that Greece’s infrastructure with regard to unaccompanied minors has a capacity of 325 spots with 85 more in the transitional hostels. The rest of the unaccompanied minors are placed into protective custody, which, due to the lack of housing, takes place in the detention facilities of police stations. Due to the high number of unaccompanied minors, there is an urgent need to build new infrastructure, as holding a large number of minors in detention centers is not feasible.

People’s disappointment paired with their hope to cross the border make them especially vulnerable to being exploited by smugglers.  It is important for there to be coordinated efforts to protect people both from smugglers but also from human trafficking.

Persons with disabilities or health problems were on the street today waiting to reach the transit site, where they would have access to primary health care. Nevertheless, the fear of the upcoming closure of the borders forces them to disregard their health, as continuing their journey is a priority.

Pregnant women and young children are among the crowd. The number of women traveling alone is also high.

“Both my son and I are tired,” said Ms. K from Syria as she tried to lift her leg that was falling to the side of the wheelchair, which her son had been pushing for over 24 km. “The journey is long and I can’t cope. My son is also tired and tired with me. I want to somewhere to sleep a little so he can also rest after so many hours on the road”.

A minor accompanied by his uncle and his family walked the distance from the rest stop of Polykastro towards Eidomeni. He looked very tired while his eyes were teary. At the time we met him he was alone and we were unaware of his uncle’s existence. We started to investigate the situation he was in. “My ears hurt a lot, especially the left one, and I have a headache. I want to sleep but the pain doesn’t let me. I want to rest and the area where we have set up to sleep is very cold. I can’t rest and my feet hurt a lot from walking”

A woman, alone, holds her baby in her arms while another young child walks behind her, dragging his feet. The woman walks on the transit site’s gravel with her socks. We approached her… “I don’t want shoes; my feet have swelled from walking. I just want my children and I to rest.”

Friday, February 19th, 2016

The increase in departures to the island has also changed the situation at Eidomeni the past few days. The buses first approach the rest stop in Polykastro.

The checking procedures have increased, resulting in fewer people entering FYROM. There are many people at Eidomeni’s transit site and thus all structures available are used to host them.

Το βράδυ στο
transit site στην Ειδομένη © ΕΣΠ

Yesterday, a meeting was held between the Austrian, Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, and FYROM authorities, in continuation of a meeting they held on February 3rd.  (More information here: ECRE - Balkan Governments Streamlining Border Controls, MIA – Police services establish standardized migrant registration). In this meeting, a common and uniform checking procedure of those at the Macedonian/Greek border, as well as at the campsite of Gevgelija, was decided on. This would result in the elimination of rechecking people throughout their journey from the Balkans to Europe. The check would involve an interview, presenting originals or copies of documents, etc. More information here: Joint Statement of Heads of Police Services from the Meeting held in Zagreb, Croatia on 18th February 2016.

“I am from Palestine though I lived and grew up in Syria, where my parents became refugees. We started the journey together five men, our uncle who needs care since he is in a wheelchair, me, my brother and our uncle’s children. At the island, our uncle and cousins were registered as Syrians and we as Palestinians. We cannot cross the borders. The rest have carried on but they cannot go on alone, we need each other…The borders separated us. We did not get past the Gevgelija checkpoint, we were returned back to Eidomeni.”

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

The increased checks at the Greece-Turkey borders, the constant changes to checking procedures at the FYROM-Greece borders, as well as the actions taken in the countries on route through the Balkans, have changed the situation at Eidomeni.

Entry into the islands in the past few days decreased, and as a result so did the number of people headed towards the areas. Eidomeni’s transit site is quiet, while few buses arrive.

Push-backs from FYROM to Greece of people who entered the neighboring country without further approval have increased. On Tuesday we recorded at least 35 people who boarded a bus to Athens, after having paid the return ticket.

At the transit site, there are also people who have been deported from FYROM with wounds—such as dog bites. In the past few days, specifically 20 people were faced with trained dogs while they were attempting to cross the borders from different locations. These people, primarily of African and Asian descent, were returned to Greece and received first aid care from the medical organizations operating in the region.

The problem of re-issuing official documents to people who either lost them or were robbed continues. Significant is also the problem of Syrians who have been recorded as Palestinians, and of Afghans who have been recorded as Iranians.

“It was night I could not see I only heard barking I didn’t know how many dogs there were. They bit me though, far up my back.” 

Wednesday, February 10th - Monday, February 15th, 2016

The number of people coming to Eidomeni has started to decrease. Operations to set up a new campsite near the rest stop in Polykastro have launched. The reactions of the local government have been tense. The questions being raised about the use and specifications of this “camp,” however, are serious.

While departures from the ports of Piraeus and Kavala have increased, few buses come to Eidomeni, since access is difficult due to the closed roads and blockades of rural farmers.

The problems of re-issuing lost official documents and searches for lost documents continue over the course of many days. The people awaiting re-issuance are in a state of general upheaval, while the area’s police station frequently changes their procedures for re-issuance. People are returning to Athens or are going to Thessaloniki in order to have their documents re-issued.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

On Tuesday, there were much fewer people both at the rest stop in Polykastro and at the transit site. Many people are still waiting for their official documents to be re-issued. The weather is very good so the children and adults are playing soccer.

The second fence at the border of FYROM, which is located approximately five meters away from the first one, is almost completed, while operations continue in order to cover the target length of kilometers. Furthermore, military vehicles are stationed in the area, split between Greece and FYROM.

Further reinforcements in the form of tents have been brought to the rest stop’s facilities by Doctors without Borders UNHCR.

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

The situation remains disorderly, with many buses stationed at the rest stop at Polykastro but also many people at the transit site. There, the multi-hour wait for re-issuance continues for a large number of people while witness testimonies even note theft of their official documents.

On Saturday morning, there are around 76 buses at the rest stop of Polykastro while 10 more are stationed at the village of Eidomeni. There are many people at the transit site. The borders are “closed” for many hours while when they are open, around 100 people per hour cross. In some cases more than 100 people per hour are allowed to cross, though an explanation is not given for this increase.

The people waiting at the rest stop of Polykastro “close” the door as one more attempt to pressure the authorities to allow them to continue their journey to Eidomeni. There are many witness accounts that mention drivers locking their buses and leaving people outside. There are others that mention drivers leaving the people outside and driving away from the region.

In extreme situations, such as the one the people are in but also the one the employees and volunteers in Eidomeni are in, protection of vulnerable cases becomes even more difficult. Unaccompanied minors, who are in protective custody, are in a very bad psychological state, while tensions are ongoing inside the detention center, where they are kept under bad condition.

As we neared the transit site area, a man 
approached us, who told us that he and
his children have been on the road for
four days “we have not bathed, we have
not slept properly and we are always on
the move. The circumstances push us, the
bus drivers push us, and time pushes us.” 
Another man of Pakistani descent told us
“I learned that the border opened. Some
driver told me and I came to cross.
I can’t stay here… I am trying to request
asylum and I can’t. I don’t have access.
I thought, if they open I should go, but
in the end it was a lie, another lie…
Many have approached us to leave by
another way but I’m scared… my eyes
have seen a lot.”

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

There continues to be a large number of buses at the rest stop in Polykastro. Many people wait at the transit site, resulting in the available spaces in the tents being filled and an increase in the number of tents in the surrounding fields. The tension is ongoing and the loss of official document continues, as well as the attempts to retrieve them.

In such a situation, it is important to note that the system
of protection of vulnerable groups is lacking, despite all
the organizations’ efforts. One of the issues that have been
raised is that of the protective custody of unaccompanied
minors taking place in local police stations’ detention centers
and the conditions they are kept in.


Mrs. Leila is around 56 years old and she has been in Eidomeni’s
transit site for three days. She stays in a tent with her grandchildren
awaiting reissuance of their lost official documents. She talks
to us, smiling brightly throughout, and invites us to her tent,
her “temporary home.” “I am from Afghanistan and I have gone
through many situations like this one. I smile so that I don’t make
my grandchild sad. My daughter-in-law is weaker than I am ever
since we lost my son and so I found the strength to smile for the
children. I go on walks with them so that they don’t get lost with
so many people here. My feet hurt but I continue to walk with my
grandchildren. I go to the volunteers too to help them. What can I do… to spend the days because that’s how long it will take to re-issue our documents.”

A young woman from Somalia with 6 children is at the transit site in a tent that they have put up in the adjacent field. She does not have papers because they were seized by the FYROM police. She only has a photocopy and documents from UNHCR Turkey, which state that her and her children have been recognized as refugees. “I want to protect me and my children. I heard that the borders had been opened and I wanted to leave but in the end I learned that they were closed for me and my children.”

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

The rural farmers’ blockades change the course of the buses, resulting in tens of buses stopping at the rest stop of Polykastro on the route from Athens to Eidomeni. The stops at Nomo Pierias and Imathia are several hours long.

On Wednesday afternoon many people started to journey by foot, covering a distance of around 20 kilometers. At the same time at the Polykastro rest stop there were more than 50 buses while at Eidomeni, 20 more buses were stationed to allow passengers to disembark.

Entry into FYROM was not permitted until 3:00 p.m. When the border opened, around 100 people per hour were allowed to cross until 8pm, when the borders closed again until 11pm.

The transit site was packed with around 2.500-3.000 people, many of which were forced to stay in the adjoining fields in tents—some of which were makeshift. The authorities, due to the large number of people, decided to seal the document in bulk. This way however, caused much confusion, resulted in many people losing their documents, and created tension. The police handled the escalated tension by taking heightened measures.

The issues that are raised are the safety of the people and particularly the safety of vulnerable populations such as unaccompanied minors, elderly people, women traveling alone, single-parent families, etc. A characteristic example is the case of an elderly woman who, along with her grandson, lives in a tent in the field adjacent to the transit site, while there are more than a few cases of young children separated from their parents.

A woman approaches us and tells us “I lost my document and now I can’t cross the borders. The only thing I want is for me and my deaf child is to be protected. I am scared of the people around me.”

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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