Remembering the Idomeni refugees

Macedonia
Greece
Refugees
idomeni2-d610---02.-April-2016-01835.jpg

Young girl at Idomeni refugee camp, April 2016. © Neal McQueen 2016

Since 18 November 2015 Macedonia's borders to Greece have been closed, to cut off the so called ‘Balkan-route’, to refugees. Macedonia has been a candidate for accession to the European Union since 2005, but has not yet entered into negotiations because of Greece’s veto. Macedonia was forced by several EU member states – including Austria, Poland, Hungary and Germany – to close the border, which left more than ten thousand refugees stranded.

Since late March 2016, when the European Union and Turkey agreed to a widely criticized 'one in, one out' refugee deal, the spotlight on those living in the Idomeni refugee camp, located in a village on the border between Greece and Macedonia, has mostly moved on. Neal McQueen went to the area two times, in March and April this year, just before Greek authorities moved thousands of refugees in May. The photos in this web gallery were taken on the 2nd and 3rd of April, in the camp and at a highway gas station about 30 km away. Neal's blog is Perilous Hope.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

RELATED: Humanity adrift: why refugees deserve better, NI editor Hazel Healy travels to Lesvos looking for answers to Europe’s refugee crisis.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

On 2 April 2016, some refugees blockaded the highway at the Eko gas station, about 30 kilometres away from Idomeni. The gas station was another irregular refugee camp, hosting more than a thousand refugees. The protest started because police shutdown a medical tent inside the camp, which was built by Doctors Without Borders and handed over to the Student Christian Movement (SCM) that very day. Though the SCM had all papers cleared to provide the services, the police illegally stropped them to force the refugees out of the camp. Since there have been many refugees with serious, sometimes life-threatening health conditions, they decided to take action and blockade the highway to protest against the closure of medical support.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

Refugees in the Idomeni camp stand in line to receive food supplies from an NGO.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

This boy from Afghanistan was playing with a water bomb in the children's playground in the camp created by Dutch NGO Movement on the Ground. They built a huge circus tent to provide a space for vulnerable migrants, woman, and children so they would have a retreat space.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

Two refugees from Iraq rest and have a smoke on the rails inside of the camp in Idomeni. The rails divide the camp pretty much down the middle and a lot of the rails where inhabited with tents of the refugees, as well as the train station.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

An old refugee from Syria is sitting in front of one of the huge tents from Doctors Without Borders. These tents were set up with stacked beds side by side to host hundreds of refugees in each tent.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

A little girl from Syria is doing something that most others her age do: crying because her mother won’t buy her sweets from a hawker. There were a lot street hawkers inside the camp, most of them refugees as well.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

One of the biggest problems the camp had was the water supply. There were only a few spots for the refugees to access clean water.

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

(c) Neal McQueen 2016

On this day the refugees started a big protest in the camp. The main problem was the closed border but the protest was also about the inhumane conditions in the camp, their mistreatment from the Greek police and other Greek authorities, as well as mistreatment by the governments of the European Union, whom had clearly disregarded their human rights and all national and international treaties referring to their status as refugees.

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