Photo story: remember the Idomeni refugees

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Photo story: Remember the Idomeni refugees

In these photos Neal McQueen shows protest and everyday life in the Idomeni refugee camp, before the people living there had to leave.


Young girl at Idomeni refugee camp, April 2016. © Neal McQueen 2016

On 18 November 2015 the border between Macedonia and Greece closed. This was to end the refugees' ‘Balkan-route’. Macedonia has wanted to join the European Union since 2005. The negotiations have not started yet because Greece voted no. Many EU member states (eg. Austria, Poland, Hungary and Germany) forced Macedonia to close the border. So more than ten thousand refugees had nowhere to go.

In March 2016 the European Union and Turkey agreed to the ‘one in, one out’ refugee deal. Many people have criticized this. Since then very few people have thought about the people living in the Idomeni refugee camp, in a village on the border between Greece and Macedonia. Neal McQueen went to the area two times, in March and April this year, just before Greek authorities moved thousands of refugees in May. He took the photos here on the 2nd and 3rd of April, in the camp and at a gas station about 30 km away. Neal’s blog is Perilous Hope:

idomeni2-d810--02.-april-2016-01726.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

idomeni2-d810--02.-april-2016-01727.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

idomeni2-d610---02.-april-2016-01828.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

On 2 April 2016, some refugees blocked the highway at the Eko gas station, about 30 kilometres away from Idomeni. The gas station was another small refugee camp, with more than a thousand refugees. The protest started because police closed a medical tent in the camp, built by Doctors Without Borders and gave it to the Student Christian Movement (SCM). The SCM had all papers ready to start work, but the police illegally stopped them to force the refugees out of the camp. There have been many refugees with serious health problems, so they decided to take action and block the highway to protest against not having medical support.

idomeni2-d810--02.-april-2016-01758.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

Refugees in the Idomeni camp waiting in line for food from an NGO.

idomeni2-d610---02.-april-2016-01897.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

This boy from Afghanistan was playing with a water bomb in the children’s playground in the camp created by Dutch NGO Movement on the Ground. They built a big circus tent for woman and children migrants so they would have a place to go to be safe.

idomeni2-d610---02.-april-2016-01903.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

Two refugees from Iraq rest and smoke on the rails in the camp in Idomeni. The rails go through the camp.

idomeni2-d610---02.-april-2016-01933.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

An old refugee from Syria in front of one of the big tents from Doctors Without Borders. These tents have many beds for hundreds of refugees in each tent.

idomeni2-d610---02.-april-2016-01958.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

A little girl from Syria crying because her mother won’t buy her sweets. Most of the people selling things in the camp are refugees too.

idomeni2-d610---02.-april-2016-01961.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

One of the biggest problems in the camp was getting water. There were only a few places for the refugees to get clean water.

idomeni-d610--03.-april-2016-02039.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

idomeni-d810--03.-april-2016-02071.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

idomeni-d610--03.-april-2016-02003.jpg (c) Neal McQueen 2016

On this day the refugees started a big protest in the camp. The main problem was the closed border but the protest was also about the very bad conditions in the camp, bad treatment from the Greek police and other Greek authorities, and bad treatment by the governments of the European Union, who did not respect their human rights as refugees.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).