More than 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers remain stuck at the northern Greek-Macedonian border due to stricter border controls.
ATHENS (AA) - More than 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers remain stuck at the northern Greek-Macedonian border after Macedonian authorities applied even stricter border controls, Anadolu Agency has learnt.
Until Friday, Syrians, Afghans and Iraqi people were able to cross from Greece to Macedonia as long as they had a certified document from the Greek police. However, Macedonian authorities said they now no longer authorize entry of Afghans into their territory, while stricter controls and prerequisites for Syrians and Iraqis were also being carried out, according to local Greek media and nongovernmental organizations on the ground.
From Saturday morning, only those Syrians and Iraqis were being allowed to cross over to Macedonia who carried either a passport or identity card. However, "there are many Iraqis and Syrians, who have lost their identity cards or passports and right now they cannot pass," Gemma Gillie, a member of Doctors Without Borders, said Monday.
Gillie also pointed out that the crossing had become very slow since Macedonian authorities were thoroughly checking people’s identification documents and their luggage. Only 100 people crossed over last Sunday and it seems that things will not get any faster Monday.
Consequently, people have been piling up at the camp but also in the area. Nearly 2,000 people are trapped at the Idomeni camp, according to the police, while about 3,000 people are at a gas station about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) further, waiting for police to let them move on.
"We try to prevent people from leaving this area because when people abandon their bus they will lose their turn for the camp," volunteer Matthew Sheppard said from the gas station. "However, 1,500 people started making their way to Idomeni camp on foot since yesterday, carrying their children and leaving some of their belongings behind," Sheppard added.
So far, people are worried but they are remaining calm. A peaceful protest took place at the Idomeni camp Saturday, when 30 artists from Greece, Turkey and Croatia organized a parade along with the refugees and asylum seekers that marched towards the border, asking for a safe passage.
Facing authorities’ rejection, about 100 Afghans peacefully protested in front of the border Sunday noon. There are 400 Afghans inside the camp at the moment, according to police.
"Afghan people are stuck in Macedonia and we are stuck here. We are now thinking about what to do, should we go back to Athens or go back to war [in Afghanistan]?" 45-year-old Bashir Ahmad and 23-year-old Ahmad Zamir said after the protest.
"We ask, what about us, why can’t we cross the border? They told us there are new rules but they do not explain the problem so that we can have an answer," 26-year-old Obaid from Afghanistan said after the protest.
"I don’t want to go back or cross Pakistan and Iran again; When they see Afghans they shoot us on the spot," he claimed.
In the meantime, more than 5,000 people have arrived at the port of Piraeus since Sunday, most of them struggling to leave Athens and reach the borders by bus.
"We have spaces to shelter people and will make more until this is resolved," Greek Deputy Minister of Migration Policy, Ioannis Mouzalas said Sunday.