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Refugees, Migrants Crowd Greece’s Border with North Macedonia Again

SKOPJE — The northern Greek village of Idomeni, which had been the scene of thousands of refugees and migrants desperately trying to make their way out to other European Union countries is seeing them gather again on the North Macedonian border.

Village leaders told the news site Euronews that the area, which drew international headlines when North Macedonia built a barrier and forcibly kept out refugees and migrants, looks like it’s becoming a pathway again.

"Naturally their only purpose in coming to Idomeni is to cross the border and go to Europe,” said Community President Xanthoula Soupli. “Their aim is not to stay here, it’s simply the point at which they are trying to pass the border. Numbers have increased during the last month.”

The report said there’s evidence of people in abandoned rural warehouses, most arriving on commercial trains from Thessaloniki and jumping from wagons just before reaching the village, risking their lives.

Once arrived, they shelter until getting a call from across the border to attempt a crossing. For one group that’s come from Afghanistan, it’s not proved easy. They’ve been turned away by North Macedonian border guards and told to return to Greece, said the site.

"Now at the border on the side of North Macedonia is hard,” said one who was not named. “There is a lot of police presence. Now we are in Greece without papers and without money."

Others come from Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Algeria and Morocco. Many have neither money or documents and are putting a strain on the resources of the village once again.

In July, 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic raged, the village had seen a similar influx of people frantic to get out of Greece where some have waited two years or more in detention centers and camps, hoping for asylum.

The EU border agency Frontex at that time told Kathimerini that the village was becoming a gateway again, with scores streaming across the Greek-Turkish land border, despite the tightening of security in the spring, gathering in and around the village of under 400 residents, the paper said.

“We have a problem again, they (migrants) are constantly arriving by train and on foot, waiting and hiding in the fields for an opportunity to cross the fence. There are constant thefts and houses are being burgled,” Mayor Xanthi Soupli said then.

“People here are scared and there is not enough police to protect us. We are worried that we are facing a new 2015,” she said. “This is how it all started then,” referring to when the refugee and migrant crisis exploded.

Info Migrants, using reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP,) noted that in 2015,  hundreds of migrants and refugees passed through Idomeni to get into North Macedonia – then called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – and then to more prosperous EU countries before a wall was put up.

At one point in 2015, Idomeni had more than 13,000 people on the border, some trying forcibly to cross but stymied by forces from the then Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), before Greece moved in bulldozers to raze the camp and the pitched tents.

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