Thousands stranded in Greece as border closure compounds suffering for migrants

تم النشر: 23 نوفمبر 2015 13:32 CET

By Caroline Haga and Nichola Jones, IFRC

Several thousand people are stranded in Greece after the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia imposed fresh border restrictions, forcing families to spend the night sleeping in the open.

The Hellenic Red Cross has medical teams operating at a transit camp in Idomeni, Greece, as an estimated 3,000 people wait to cross the border into Gevgelija, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which has had new restrictions in place since 20 November.

Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) emergency operations in Greece, Steve McAndrew, said: “The situation in Idomeni is serious. Many people have been stranded for more than 48 hours and have barely eaten. Some are suffering from exhaustion and one of our medical teams has already treated a hypothermia case and severe epileptic seizure.”

Although there is shelter at the transit camp itself, many people are choosing to bed down along the border fence, amid fears they will miss the opportunity to cross should the authorities reopen the border.

The border restrictions include screening migrants on the basis of nationality, which has led to people from countries including Somalia, Iran and Pakistan being refused entry although confusion surrounds the official policy.

“We have been waiting here by the border for three days,” said Mahmoud, from Pakistan, who has been travelling for a month with two friends. “We can’t go back.”

The Hellenic Red Cross is distributing food, water and clothing along with other organizations at the border, and it has also has also set up a paediatric clinic. Mobile first aid teams are operating in the area and treated at least 80 patients on  21 November. Psychosocial support is also being provided to people in distress, particularly children.

More than 5,000 people per day are arriving in Greece and the Hellenic Red Cross is responding across island hot spots in Lesvos, Kos, Samos, Chios, Crete and Rhodes and is also providing support for refugees in Athens.

Last month, the IFRC quadrupled its emergency appeal for Greece, and is seeking 12.6 million Swiss francs to support the Hellenic Red Cross in reaching 200,000 people with relief items, medical treatment, psychosocial support, and search and rescue services.