There is not much hope left in Idomeni, the refugee encampment of 10,000 something people. Everyone in Idomeni was expecting some kind of positive outcome from the first EU-Turkey summit, all in vain. Officially, there was no clear decision, although the infamous “Balkan route” seems to have finally been shut down for every refugee. A desperate attempt to cross a nearby river into Macedonia has failed as well.
I visited the camp close to the village Idomeni in Northern Greece for three days in early March (and didn’t even meet Ai Weiwei). All refugees I have talked to said they were from either Syria or Iraq. Although some may actually have been from other countries with even lesser chances to obtain asylum-seeker status in the EU, a Norwegian-Lebanese volunteer, fluent in Arabic, confirmed to me that the vast majority indeed fled those two war-ridden countries.
There is great demand for Arabic interpreters and smart phone chargers. Access to information is key in Idomeni. We live in the digital age, after all.
Idomeni refugees are political currency
On the surface, Idomeni is the devastating result of no policy coordination and political will on the European level.
No state agency is present in Idomeni, no coordination on the ground, nothing. A mere handful of volunteer organisations try to fight the humanitarian crisis, first and foremost Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The only warm meal is provided by an international network of volunteers that park their food truck on the muddy fields of Idomeni every afternoon at 5 pm.
On a deeper layer, Idomeni is a political statement to not come to Europe. The man-made misery is a tool of deterrence. Regardless of the specific refugee policy one renders preferable, the bitter truth is: people in Idomeni are being used as currency in a cynical game of Realpolitik. There is no justification for that.
Here are some pictures I took: