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Spotlight: 2,000 refugees relocated on first day of major police operation to evacuate Idomeni border camp

Xinhua, May 25, 2016 Adjust font size:

The first phase of a major police operation launched on Tuesday morning to clear Greece's largest makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni crossing on the Greece-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia border ended by sunset without problems, according to Greek officials.

A total of 2,031 refugees and migrants were smoothly moved by 42 buses from the squalid camp to other organized hospitality facilities in northern Greece, according to an e-mailed Public Order Ministry statement.

Representatives of NGOs operating inside the camp told Xinhua at the outskirts of the tent city that no violent incidents have been reported.

"There will be no military type operation and use of force in transferring the refugees to organized hospitality centers," Yorgos Kyritsis, spokesman of the Refugee Coordinating Committee had told Xinhua earlier in Athens.

The operation which will continue on Wednesday and in following days, according to Greek officials, is carried out under stringent security measures.

Some 1,400 riot police officers have been deployed according to estimates, around the informal refugee settlement which has been sealed off for most volunteers and media. Only the Greek national news agency AMNA and state broadcaster ERT were allowed entrance to cover the operation.

At a distance of some six km from the camp, Xinhua staffers witnessed buses carrying refugees as activists from across Europe were protesting against the operation waving banners with slogans such as "Where are our human rights? Where are you Europe?"

Kyritsis as well as other Greek officials have assured that the refugees were gradually convinced to leave Idomeni for newly established organized accommodation shelters with more humane conditions.

Until Tuesday about 8,400 people were living in the muddy tents in the camp with inadequate food and medical assistance provided by NGOs.

They are among the 54,000 people who have been stranded in Greece since mid-February after the closure of borders along the Balkan route to central Europe.

So far most of the refugees insisted on staying close to the border crossing in the hope that the borders will reopen.

According to Greek officials, gradually more and more people are realizing that their relocation to organized shelters is their best option. At its peak earlier this spring the camp housed about 12,000 migrants and refugees. Endit