The clearing of an informal refugee camp at Idomeni, Greece, began Tuesday, almost certainly dashing the hopes of thousands of people living there in miserable conditions who hope to travel further into Europe.
"The first tents were already dismantled," a spokesman for the migration crisis management body, Giorgios Kyritsis, told state TV. "The operation will take several days. No force was used so far."
Authorities decided to keep reporters and cameras away and have blocked the camp, which lies on the Macedonian border, since dawn. Only shots of four buses taking the migrants from Idomeni to organized camps elsewhere were aired.
At the start of the operation, a helicopter swooped down above the camp, reportedly to get an overview of the situation and feed live video to police headquarters.
According to Greek media reports, some 1,400 police were assigned to the task.
Built at the peak of the migration crisis in 2015, the camp at Idomeni was originally intended as a place where 2,000 refugees could briefly stay during their wait to cross the border and continue their trip north through Macedonia and the Balkans en route to richer EU countries.
But, as Balkan countries began restricting the flow of migrants, the crowd swelled, reaching around 12,000 in March, when the border was totally shut.
Most migrants stranded at Idomeni have since refused to relocate to other camps despite harrowing conditions, hoping against the odds that they will be allowed to continue north.
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