Refugees' plight deepens in Greece after EU-Turkey stand-off

Thousands of people remain stranded in the refugee camp at Idomeni, on the Greek border with Macedonia, on Tuesday, hours after the European Union and Turkey failed to reach agreement on resolving the migration crisis.

Making matters worse, heavy rain fell Monday night. It was the second massive rainfall in five days again and turned the area into an ocean of mud, with many tents waterlogged.

People hung clothes, wrung out blankets and carefully dried the refugee documents they use as an ersatz valid passport. Fires were lit, but with the supply of wood for burning exhausted in the vicinity, some people burned plastic, creating noxious smoke.

The camp was set up to host no more than 2,000 people on a short-term basis, but has now swelled to include more than 13,000 people who cannot move on as Macedonia has drastically limited the number of people it will allow to cross into its territory. Many have been waiting for more than three weeks.

It was unclear whether any refugee were allowed to head north through Macedonia Monday.

The crush of people was also felt further north. A refugee from Iraq told dpa by phone that he and a group of others have been stranded on Macedonia’s border with Serbia since Friday morning, apparently as authorities there await a clear signal from the EU about the way ahead for migration policy.

At the same time, the surge from the south continued, with migrants, mostly Syrian refugees, continuing to arrive on the Greek mainland by ferry after making the dangerous Aegean crossing from Turkey.

Around 1,000 people are expected to disembark Tuesday in the Athens‘ port of Piraeus and to continue north, toward Idomeni.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, 132,177 people have crossed from Turkey to Greece since the start of 2016, after about 850,000 did so in 2015.

No end to the mass migration was in sight after the EU and Turkey failed Monday to strike a deal to limit the number of people fleeing to Europe.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu surprised EU leaders with new proposals, including one to take back all migrants and asylum who arrive in Greece, with the cost covered by EU and a further agreeement for the resettlement of one Syrian refugee out of Turkey for each Syrian that Turkey takes back from Greece.

The deal put forward by Ankara would also lead to an increase in EU funding for Syrians living in Turkey and a faster disbursement of 3 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) in refugee aid that the EU already promised Ankara. The plan would require additional assistance, reportedly another 3 billion euros by 2018.

Davutoglu’s proposal also includes long-sought progress on Turkey's EU membership bid and the offer of lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the bloc by the end of June, as long as Ankara fulfills the necessary conditions.

German The Left (Die Linke) party criticized the EU for entertaining Turkey’s demands, which the party chief Bernd Riexinger described as “blackmail.”

„Turkey openly celebrated its position of power at the summit with the EU,“ Riexinger told dpa. “The EU is in position to be blackmailed because of its disunity in the migration issue.”

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49


More from Europe

Russia drops request for navy to use Spanish port under NATO pressure

Russia has withdrawn its request for warships to use the Spanish port of Ceuta on the Mediterranean Sea, the Russian...

Conservationists slam Norway at whaling conference

Conservationist groups Wednesday criticized an ongoing meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for...

EU queries Italy spending plans; Renzi threatens retaliatory veto

The European Commission has asked Italy to explain its spendthrift 2017 budget plans, it confirmed Wednesday, hours...

Calais migrant camp empty, as official announces "end of the Jungle"

All the migrants at a camp near the northern French port city of Calais have left, the official heading the Pas de...

Migrant rescues close to Libya pose security risk, EU agency says

Migrants adrift in the Mediterranean are being picked up "closer and closer" to Libyan waters, exposing rescue...