Yesterday once more, we witnessed a violent police action against refugees in Idomeni. Once again, those who were denied their right of freedom of movement; those denied their right to seek asylum in western Europe; those who the EU bureaucrats decided had to stay in Greece; were removed from the border. Against their will and with the exclusion of media and independent observers they where forced into buses and driven away. But once again, these repressive measures were met with strong resistance. The day before, the segregated Afghans showed how committed they are to travel on, by marching to the gate to Macedonia/FYROM and blocking the train tracks.
Furthermore, many of those who are still in the camp of Idomeni now will face difficulties to continue their journeys, as the registration in Macedonia now requires passports or IDs, which many do not have. The entrance to Europe via the Balkan corridor has been outsourced to a closed camp in Gevgelija on Non-EU-territory where Macedonia carries out the dirty job of segregation and rejection. Meanwhile the European Union can pretend to have clean hands.
As it was already the case in December 2015, it is very dubious how these decisions were taken and where the domino effect began: State governments shift the blame to others, stating they were only reacting to restrictions others had already enforced. One explanation could be the decision taken at the regional police conference in Zagreb held on February the 18th. (See their joint statement here: http://www.mup.hr/UserDocsImages/topvijesti/2016/veljaca/migranti_sastanak/joint_statement.pdf) Paragraph 6 mentions Syria and Iraq as the only two examples for war-torn countries. Macedonia must have interpreted this enumeration not as a set of examples, but rather as an exhaustive list of war-countries deemed to produce individuals worthy of international protection.
The introduction of the new measures has led to a complete chaos on the Balkan corridor, which has once again deprived thousands of their basic rights. On the weekend hundreds of Afghans were deported from Croatia to Macedonia. Serbia has sealed off its borders, started to push people back to Macedonia and Bulgaria and has abolished the right to claim asylum for males between 14 and 60 years (see here: http://live.w2eu.info/). This is an immediate violation of the Geneva Refugee convention. Furthermore, the Eastern route via Bulgaria and Dimitrovgrad has been made impossible (see here: http://bulgaria.bordermonitoring.eu/2016/02/23/serbia-starts-deportations-to-bulgaria/), as only the document issued in Gevgelija/Macedonia will entitle refugees to travel via the „humanitarian corridor“. Thereby, people who actually fulfill all criteria are now asked to go back to Gevgelija to receive the newly introduced travel document. Whether this is going to be practicable, remains questionable. The authorities are playing ping-pong with refugees. Meanwhile, the public outcry about these outrageous and extralegal restrictions has not yet occurred.
The camp in Idomeni is still crowded, several hundreds are waiting at the gas station in Polykastro. Because of ongoing road blockades by farmers and the general chaotic situation in Athens and at the border, refugees are distributed along the route between Athens and Idomeni in small accommodation centers.
Activists from Athens have reported that the Sxisto camp close to Athens has already been filled with more than 1000 people, when more buses from Idomeni and Piraeus arrived, carrying mostly Afghans. This camp is open, but guarded by police and army. Access to independent observers is once more denied.