The Guardian reports: In a dusty field that straddles the Greek-Macedonian border, quite where one country ends and the other begins is not entirely clear.
But several Macedonian soldiers in the area are very certain. “Get back,” one shouts through the darkness, herding hundreds of refugees a couple of metres further south from where they stood a moment ago. “Get back to the Greek border.”
The crowds shuffle briefly backwards, and the soldiers seem satisfied. “Please,” a Syrian mother calls back, a toddler in her arms. “We are a family. Where should we go now?”
It is a filthy spot, filled with the detritus of past travellers. Surrounded by farmland, the only lighting comes from a nearby train track, and the only bedding is the sand the woman stands on.
“You must sleep here,” the Macedonian replies.
It is an alarming order – not just for these refugees, who have walked 40 miles to reach this point, but for the people of the country they have just crossed. Greece has received nearly 80,000 refugees this year, a record figure that has seen it overtake Italy as the primary migrant gateway to Europe. Migrants are arriving in such high numbers by dinghy from Turkey that the authorities – already battling an economic crisis – cannot feed, house, or process their paperwork fast enough, leading to bottlenecks on the Greek islands.
One factor helping relieve the pressure was the constant stream of refugees out the other side of Greece, near the northern border town of Idomeni, into Macedonia. But in the past fortnight, the Macedonian government has begun to regulate the flow. Until a few days ago the route had been blocked for a whole week – raising the spectre of a refugee bottleneck at both ends of Greece, at a time when the country is struggling to support its own citizens, let alone a record wave of refugees. [Continue reading…]