Traffic on the Balkan Route for refugees and immigrants wanting to make their way to Europe appears to be on the increase. That’s the opinion of local leaders in Idomeni — a village in the north of Greece, close to the border with North Macedonia.
"Naturally their only purpose in coming to Idomeni is to cross the border and go to Europe,” says 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.”
Signs of passage are evident in abandoned rural warehouses. Most arrive on commercial trains from Thessaloniki — jumping from wagons just before reaching the village — at risk to 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.
"Now at the border on the side of North Macedonia is hard,” says one. “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 the burden of care falls on a local community that is feeling the strain.
"As they are hungry they come into our properties”, says Christos Kovatsis, a beekeeper. “They cause damage that costs us a lot — to our crops also, and many other things in the village. They get our homes.”
Local authorities say policing is inadequate. Migrants without documents face transfer to detention centres and deportation proceedings.