Greek riot police are evacuating thousands of migrants from a camp on the Macedonia border where they have been stranded for months.
The migrants and refugees, who were hoping to continue their journey north through Macedonia, are being moved by bus to reception centres elsewhere in Greece. Most of the people evacuated today are families with children.
They have been living in tents in squalid conditions, with constant food shortages and flooding caused by harsh weather, and became stranded after Macedonia closed its border with Greece in March following Austria’s decision to take take similar measures to deal with the migrant crisis.
Borders across Europe have been tightened after the arrival of more than a million migrants, most by sea, in 2015.
Many of these people had been fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and headed to Germany, which had opened its borders.
Greece said it would not use force to clear the Idomeni camp, which is being evacuated over several days. Although there is a heavy police presence, no problems have been reported.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said: “It’s important that organised movements are voluntary, non-discriminatory and based on well-informed choices by the individuals.”
Before the operation began, an estimated 8,000 people were living in tents at the makeshift camp.
The International Rescue Committee said that on-site registration had proved a good incentive for refugees to leave Idomeni, although the asylum process was “inadequate and slow”.
Save the Children said it was concerned about a lack of basic services, such as bathrooms and shelters, in the official camps.
“Many of the children, especially lone children, have been through enough trauma already,” said Amy Frost, team leader in Greece. “Now that the evacuation has started, it is paramount that authorities make it a priority to keep families together, and to ensure that children are being transferred to facilities where they can live in conditions that meet European and international standards for child welfare.”
Police have also started moving migrants who have been blocking railway tracks on the border for several weeks in the hope of being allowed to travel further north.
The blockade has forced trains to switch routes through Bulgaria further to the east.