Thou­sands moved off il­le­gal site in Greece

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Greek au­thor­i­ties sent hun­dreds of po­lice into the coun­try’s largest in­for­mal refugee camp yes­ter­day to sup­port the grad­ual evac­u­a­tion of the Idomeni site on the Mace­do­nian bor­der.

The gov­ern­ment has pledged that po­lice will not use force, and says the oper­a­tion is ex­pected to last about a week to 10 days. Jour­nal­ists were blocked from cover­ing in­side the camp.

By about midday 23 buses car­ry­ing a to­tal 1,110 peo­ple had left Idomeni, head­ing to new refugee camps in north­ern Greece, po­lice said, while earth-mov­ing ma­chin­ery was used to clear aban­doned tents. No vi­o­lence was re­ported.

Vicky Markolefa, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders char­ity, said the oper­a­tion was pro­ceed­ing “very smoothly” and with­out in­ci­dent. “We hope it will con­tinue like that,” she said.

The camp, which sprang up at an in­for­mal pedes­trian bor­der cross­ing for refugees and mi­grants head­ing north to wealth­ier Euro­pean na­tions, was home to an es­ti­mated 8,400 peo­ple - in­clud­ing hun­dreds of chil­dren - mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

At its peak, when Mace­do­nia shut its bor­der in March, the camp housed more than 14,000, but num­bers have de­clined as peo­ple be­gan ac­cept­ing au­thor­i­ties’ of­fers of al­ter­na­tive places to stay.

In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Ed­wards said the evac­u­a­tion ap­peared to be tak­ing place “calmly,” and the UN refugee agency was send­ing more staffers to Idomeni.

“As long as the move­ment of peo­ple from Idomeni is... vol­un­tary in na­ture (and) that we’re not see­ing use of force, then we don’t have par­tic­u­lar con­cerns about that,” he said. “It of­ten does help move peo­ple into more or­gan­ised sites, when they’re will­ing to move to those places.”

MOV­ING ON: Refugees are loaded on to a bus

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