By Vasiliki Mitsinotou
ATHENS (AA) - The relocation of refugees from the informal refugee camp of Idomeni in northern Greece to accommodation centers in northern Greece has started Tuesday at dawn.
So far, six buses with more than 300 migrants have left the camp heading to a new refugee camp near Greece’s main northern city of Thessaloniki, Greek police said.
Giorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for the refugee crisis, said Monday that police would not use force and that the operation was expected to last about 10 days.
More than 10 police units, from Athens and nearby cities, along with riot police and a helicopter, are participating in the operation, police said.
Journalists were stopped at a police roadblock a few kilometers away and not allowed to enter the camp, reported the daily Kathimerini.
Idomeni is the country’s largest informal refugee camp in northern Greece, on the border with Macedonia. Stranded migrants were piling up for months, reaching more than 13,000 people at its peak, including hundreds of children, mostly coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Their hope to cross the border and reach northern Europe gradually faded and they started leaving the area from March when Balkan countries applied border restrictions. In the meantime, Greek authorities tried to persuade them to move to other facilities where living conditions were said to be better.
Greek authorities are also eager to reopen the railway line from Idomeni to the Balkans that has been frequently blocked by migrants protesting against the shut borders.
So far no violence was reported. The operation is expected to continue throughout the day.
Over a million migrants have entered Greece since 2015 in the greatest immigration wave to hit Europe since World War II. More than 50,000 people have remained in the country due to border restrictions applied by the Balkan neighbors.