Refugees languish in Greece after Macedonia border lockdown

At least 12,000 refugees are living in squalid conditions in a makeshift camp in Idomeni, a village in northern Greece.

The CBC's Ellen Mauro visits a refugee camp in northern Greece

At least 12,000 refugees are living in squalid conditions in a makeshift camp in Idomeni, a village in northern Greece.

They came hoping to be able to cross the nearby border to Macedonia and continue their journeys to northern Europe. But that border is now closed, leaving the refugees here struggling with the uncertainty of what might come next.

A group of men — and a little boy — huddle together by a fire, a rare source of warmth in Idomeni. But it's hard to imagine the fire does much to warm a child wearing only flip-flops on his feet in the mud. 

Nearly half of the people living at the Idomeni camp are children, according to the UN refugee agency. 

Some of the most vulnerable people at Idomeni are placed in larger shelters by NGOs. Doctors Without Borders says many children in the camp are suffering from respiratory conditions because of cold and often rainy weather and a lack of proper hygiene. 

Along with the large number of children living in the camp, there are also many elderly people. 

One of the most striking aspects about life in Idomeni is that despite the miserable conditions, children still manage, somehow, to have fun. 

The closure of the Macedonian border has created a backlog of refugees throughout Greece.

Some of them line up at a port near Athens to register for the European Union's relocation program. The program is supposed to resettle refugees from the countries where they land to other nations across Europe but so far, resettlement has been woefully slow. 

The stress of their situation is etched on the faces of most refugees stuck in Greece, even some of the youngest ones. 

Just like in Idomeni, kids living in makeshift camps on the outskirts of Athens love to play despite their circumstances. Moussa from Syria particularly liked our CBC microphone. 

Even though their route to northern Europe has been effectively sealed off, hundreds of refugees arrive in Greece every day. More than 100,000 have come so far this year. 

Few know for sure where they will end up. In the meantime, all they can do is prepare for the next step of their journey — whatever it might be.

Many say they hope an EU summit on March 17 will bring more clarity about how Europe will deal with the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. 


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