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Idomeni: Médecins Sans Frontières resumes activities after clashes and tear gas cause a temporary suspension

20 May 2016

In the late afternoon of May 18th, Médecins Sans Frontières teams witnessed a protest in Idomeni, with several of the camp’s trapped residents pushing a train wagon towards the closed national border with FYROM. The Greek police intervened to stop the protest and tear gas was deployed in the camp, entering also in one of our clinics and causing our teams to evacuate our medical clinic along with 12 patients of which 5 were children. We continued medical activities from just outside the main camp area.

‘It was a desperate situation. When tear gas entered our clinic, we evacuated to the outskirts of the camp with the patients", said Cristian Reynders, Field coordinator in Idomeni. "There were 5 children amongst them, some had to be carried. We referred a one year old to hospital for treatment, and continued to care for the others. When the situation calmed down we were able to go back in and distribute water to people in need." 

When the situation calmed down Médecins Sans Frontières staff took advantage of the relative calm to distribute 240 litres of water to people in need. Tensions then rose again and more police reinforcements arrived. Hundreds of people, including many women and children, fled the camp fearing for their safety. At that time, Médecins Sans Frontières took the difficult decision to evacuate all the staff from Idomeni for security reasons. 

‘I saw hundreds of women and children flee. Three long lines of scared people running away in fear. I didn’t sleep at all last night. It was awful to take the decision to leave these people who are in such desperate need’ continued Reynders. “The European leaders have abandoned these people behind closed borders in inhumane conditions.  They are growing more desperate by the day: they have no access to asylum procedures, relocation or family reunification. No humane alternative is being offered to them.  Idomeni has become the symbol of the inhumanity of the European Union migration policies." In the morning of May 19th, Médecins Sans Frontières was able to re-enter Idomeni camp, where we have now resumed our full medical and non-medical activities.