Greece begins evacuating migrants from refugee camp

May 24, 2016, 2:19 AM EDT
Idomeni camp
(Source: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús/flickr)

Greek authorities began an operation on Monday to relocate 8,400 migrants stranded in a makeshift camp in Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border.

The refugees have been reluctant to move out of the camp despite facing harsh living conditions, and riot police were deployed at dawn to control any violence or resistance. Officials say they plan to complete the operation within 10 days.

Macedonia sealed off its border in February, forcing thousands of migrants, mostly from conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, to stay in a huge informal refugee camp in Idomeni, writes the BBC. Refugees, who say they don’t wish to move farther away from the border, have not responded to Greek authorities’ calls to shift to more organized facilities.

Greece, which is reeling under a stagnant economy, has become home to more than 54,000 trapped migrants and refugees since Balkan and European countries closed their borders to reduce the massive influx of migrants traveling to Europe, notes The Guardian.

The refugees staying in Idomeni camp gave a mixed response to the evacuation. While a few were relieved at the prospect of better living conditions in organized camps, others were disappointed at not being able to head to their final destinations in Europe.