Migrants flood to Greek camp after rumours border will be forced open

Hopeful refugees flooded back to Greece’s overwhelmed Idomeni migrant camp on the border with Macedonia

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Hopeful refugees flooded back Sunday to Greece’s overwhelmed Idomeni migrant camp on the border with Macedonia, creating confusion, after rumours that the closed frontier would be forced open.

The influx came as Greek authorities were trying to evacuate the estimated 11,600 people stranded in the squalid camp after Balkan states slammed shut the migrants’ route into the European Union.

Dozens of hopeful refugees gathered on railway tracks at Idomeni and at the fence on the frontier, singing and waiting for others like them to arrive, as Greek police in riot gear stood guard.

A young Syrian refugee told the Athens News Agency that the rumour doing the rounds was that international journalists and Red Cross officials would help them force their way across the fence into Macedonia.

“We heard today that the border will open and we came here to cross the border,” he said.

“They told us that Red Cross and 500 journalists from all over the world will be with us,” he said, without specifying the source.

Another young Syrian refugee said his sister, who is living in Germany, read the same claim on the Internet and alerted him.

“People have been here for a long time. I think it’s very dangerous to cross, especially for the children but what should we do?” 24-year-old Qasim Mosawy from Afghanistan told AFP.

Dozens of other migrants were travelling back to the Idomeni border through the fields, an AFP reporter said.

“We are trying to step up our information campaign to the refugees. Some people for reasons we don’t know are creating false hopes”, Giorgos Kyritsis, spokesman of the SOMP agency which is coordinating Athens’ response to the refugee crisis, said.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of desperate migrants were stopped by Macedonian troops after wading thigh-deep through a surging river to cross the border from Greece.

The migrants, who had set off from Idomeni, clung perilously to a rope strung between the banks to cross north into Macedonia, bypassing the closed regular border crossing.

Among them, three Afghan migrants, including a pregnant woman, drowned. The rest were stopped by Macedonian troops along with the journalists travelling with them and sent back in Greece.

“Macedonia will not allow reopening of the Balkan route,” said Ivica Bocevski, a representative of Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov had said after that incident.

Greece, where the total number of migrants tops 50,000, is intensifying evacuation efforts at the Idomeni camp.

Eleven buses transported around 600 refugees from Idomeni on Friday and Saturday to other camps set up in northern Greece.

Those persuaded to board the first buses were mainly parents with children who can no longer tolerate the difficult conditions there.

But some are still holding out at Idomeni.

“People who have no hope or have no money, maybe they will go,” said 40-year-old Iraqi Fatema Ahmed, who has a 13-year-old son in Germany and three daughters with her in the camp.

“But I have hope, maybe something better will happen tomorrow, maybe today,” she added.

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