The refugee camp at the Greek village of Idomeni near the Greek border with Macedonia is slowly turning into a humanitarian catastrophe as more than 12,000 people have been stranded here by border closures. The Untied Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has accused the European authorities of violating basic principles such as solidarity, dignity and human rights while applying restrictive measures by erecting fencing along their borders and refusing entry on the basis of nationality.
The high commissioner said the current situation in Greece is “dramatic” and the solution presented by European leaders won’t do anything other than put further pressure on a country already in urgent need of assistance. With overloaded boats daily crossing the Aegean Sea towards the shores of the Greek islands of Lesbos and Kos, the number of people venturing in the direction of Idomeni keeps growing.
Idomeni was originally established as a transit camp designed to hold no more than a few thousand people. The refugees and the aid organisations working at the camp report a shortage of blankets and tents which leaves people exposed to the elements, as well as sub-standard sanitary conditions with only cold water available for washing. There are no warm meals and refugees must wait for hours to receive food. The camp is also lacking in availability of medical equipment and assistance. The tent set up by Doctors Without Borders is packed with young children receiving treatment for fever and infections caused by exposure to the cold weather and an environment lacking hygiene. The staff at the clinic say they feel overwhelmed.
While European politicians debate over how to deal with the situation, some refugees have taken matters into their own hands. On Monday, thousands of refugees marched away from the camp, looking for gaps in the razor-wire fence erected by Macedonia, and crossing the Crna Reka river by forming a human chain. Three people were reported to have drowned during the crossing.