Macedonia-Greece: March of Hope - the aftermath 15.3.16

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Report, thanks to: Are You Syrious (14.3.16, link)

"Last night, a pregnant 27-year-old Afghan woman, her 17-year-old sister and their cousin drowned while attempting to cross the river between Greece and Macedonia near Idomen camp, where up to 12,000 refugees are staying in inhumane conditions, sleeping in flooded tents, hoping the border would miraculously reopen. Today, a big group of around 3,000 refugees from the camp attempted to make a collective crossing on the same spot where drownings took place. They have started marching from Idomeni camp to Suha Reka river in the morning, with many volunteers and journalists following them on what they called The March of Hope.


After a 6km march, tens of international volunteers have decided to help the refugees to cross the river, which was very fast and dangerous due to recent rains. As many as 1,400 refugees managed to cross the border, with 600 of them being returned to Greece by military trucks at around 10 PM. Others had to wait in Macedonian fields deep into the night for their push-back to happen.

Macedonian police cut the hole in their own fence in order to return people to Greece, while around 500 refugees had to spend entire night trapped between swollen river and Macedonian soil, soaking wet, with insufficient humanitarian support. No one was allowed to continue their trip further, so both volunteers and refugees are advised to avoid making the same attempt tomorrow, as it can only lead to endangering their lives and more push-backs.

Macedonian police was very violent to some of the returned people. While refugees are slowly returning to Idomeni camp, from where they have started their march, it is still unclear who made and distributed the leaflets with instructions on how to approach the river. Leaflets appeared during last night and it seems they have triggered this massive march of refugees.
While both river banks where volunteers were helping the refugees to cross the water were on the Greek soil, some of volunteers and journalists accompanied refugees while crossing the nearby green border, thus making an illegal entry to Macedonia. Up to 80 international volunteers and journalists were arrested by Macedonian police, resulting in 260 EUR fines, plus a 6 months ban from entering Macedonia. For those who refuse to pay the fine, the ban will extend up to 5 years, according to Legis NGO, which is in contact with detained volunteers.
We advise both volunteers and refugees to only rely on official and/or trustworthy sources of info in order to avoid future legal complications. There are no indications whatsoever about reopening the border. Idomeni camp will probably be cleared out, and Macedonia will keep on reinforcing its borders with both fences and armed international personnel. Any unofficial / illegal crossing is extremely dangerous".

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