In an open field that stops abruptly at a barbed wire fence, a contemporary tragedy is unfolding. The majestic landscape on the Greece-Macedonia border presents a sharp contrast to the heartbreaking stories of the thousands of refugees left in limbo on these roads. As they await for the borders to reopen so that they can continue their long journey towards central and northern Europe, the refugees dream of making a fresh start, away from the war, the famine, the bombings and the fear that plague their homelands.
Thousands arrive at the camp daily, but few are allowed to cross to Macedonia, which has been creating a bottleneck effect on the refugee flow to the North. In the last week of February, the number of registered refugees in the camp increased from 7,000 on Wednesday to 12,000 by Friday, as Macedonia began allowing a trickle of people through the border. The atmosphere of sick and exhausted travellers and crying children strikes visitors to the camp of Idomeni. Despite the relatively mild winter, the number of refugees who suffer from various illnesses increases each day as they camp out on damp, muddy fields along the way.
Some refugees tried to breach the fence but the Macedonian police forced them back using tear gas. This kind of response doesn’t help to calm tensions among the camp refugees. “There are people here changing the numbers on their priority sheets in order to go first,” says Ibrahim, 35, a computer engineer from Damascus, “but I can understand that. Everyone wants to escape from this open prison by any means.”