Last week, Greek authorities began an operation to dismantle the country’s largest makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni, which is located off of the Macedonian border. The area served as a crucial point for migrants, but the Greece-Macedonia border had been closed off since March. At its peak, the border had housed more than 14,000 refugees. However, the numbers have since dwindled to 8,000 after many realized the border had been shut and there was little prospect of moving into Northern and Western Europe. The operation began at dawn with several hundred police officials moving into the camp to assist with the relocation of families and individuals.
The operation began as early as 6 AM, and by late afternoon, the New York Times reported that a total of 32 buses carrying 2,000 refugees were driven to state-run encampments near Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece. The operation continued with little resistance from the refugees, and so far, no violence has been reported. It is suspected that the refugees had anticipated the clearance procedures for some time now. In Idomeni, many had been living in camping tents pitched alongside railroad tracks, with aid agencies setting up in the area to help house and feed the people. Like many growing refugee camps sprawled across the European continent, the living conditions were quite poor and run-down. There are often food shortages, insufficient shelter, a plethora of health concerns, and numerous security challenges, all of which are heightened due to the unforgiving climate this past winter.
The Idomeni Refugee Camp highlights the growing refugee crisis in Europe. To date, 54,000 refugees and migrants had been trapped in financially struggling Greece after Balkan and a host of European nations closed their borders off. Considered the worst migrant crisis since the Second World War, European leaders have been desperately seeking a solution for the crisis for months. In 2015, an estimated 1 million people had moved into the continent, seeking asylum from war and poverty in conflict-riddled zones within the Middle East (i.e. Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and Africa. The situation has riled many European countries and their leaders into the development of a “quota system.” The system would scale a member’s state population and wealth index in accordance with their ability to accept a certain number of migrants passing through. This process has raised issues related to anti-immigrant, as well as anti-Muslim sentiments, across Central Europe.
As the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the refugee crisis is at risk of worsening. It is vital that a permanent solution is devised in order to afford refugees a better, and more importantly, permanent living solution.