Desperation at the European borders

16 Mar, 2016 | Macedonia
Anneke Bolt
Refugees camping out in the mud at the Greek-Macedonian border near Idomeni.
Unlike many of their countrymen, they managed to escape the war. Now, they are stuck between borders in Europe. Thousands of refugees are desperately trying to continue their way on the Balkan route towards Western Europe. Many are stranded in Greece, others in Serbia - or in a no-man's land somewhere along the way. They can neither go back, nor forwards. The borders in the Balkans remain closed.

A team from OM Macedonia is handing out water and food packages around the Greek border village Idomeni, where refugees are camping out in the rain. There are over 12,000 people at the border, a few hundred in the camp at the main petrol station 15 kilometres away from Idomeni, and many more in minicamps all over the area - at every petrol station or hotel.

The Macedonian border is not opening again. "When leaflets with this message were dropped, the mood totally changed in Idomeni," shared OM Macedonia leader Jacek Duda. "This, and three days of constant and at times very heavy rain put resignation on most of the faces. There is a strong sense of breakup and departure. Many are packing and getting ready to move on. We saw hundreds leaving, but not in the direction of Athens or Thessaloniki but in the opposite direction along the Macedonian border."

Several people have died in the attempt to reach the other side of the border this week. A 27-year-old Afghan woman with her 17-year-old sister and their cousin, drowned while attempting to cross the overflowing Vardar River between Greece and Macedonia.

Back on 'their side' of the border, the OM team sees Macedonian police and military in large numbers getting ready to return those that did make it to the other side. "It's a very tense situation," Jacek shared. The refugees that made it pass the border were driven away in military trucks – back to Greece. Most of them are now staying at petrol stations near Idomeni.

Serving meals

The OM team in Athens is handing out water and food. The number of refugees stuck in passenger terminals at the Port of Piraeus is quickly rising. "At the moment there have been over 3,000 refugees living in passenger terminals E1, E2, E3 and in a warehouse between E1 and E2," said Gabby Markus, leader of OM Greece.

In the past two weeks, the team handed out more than 2,000 sanitation packs, over 3,000 biscuits, 1,512 water bottles and 800 meals. By the end of the month, if the situation remains unchanged, the OM team is hoping to provide a lot more meals. "We will be renting an old restaurant that was closed for some years," shared Gabby. "It comes with a storage room that we can use for our relief work materials."

The team has been providing meals in the Port of Piraeus on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday evenings they also serve food to refugees on Victoria Square in central Athens. In total they’re handing out about 900 meals a week. When the kitchen is fully ready, there will be an opportunity to serve 2,000 meals weekly. OM Greece has employed two people who will run this project, together with volunteers coming in for three months or longer. "We are now looking for two apartments for the volunteers to live in," said Gabby.

Two days ago there was a fight in one of the camps in Athens. Some Christians were persecuted and they are now staying with an Iranian believer. OM Greece is trying to find accommodation for these men.

Pray for the OM teams in Macedonia, Serbia and Greece ministering to refugees who have nowhere to go. Pray that God would continue to provide the right people and resources. "Please keep us in prayer, the refugees and also the Macedonian and Greek regional governments," said Jacek. "Please keep those desperate and now almost hopeless refugees in prayer!"

An OM project, called ‘Safe Passage’, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information as well as water, food and essentials. To give to OM’s relief efforts, or for more information about how to get involved, please contact your local OM office.

Credit: Anneke Bolt · © 2016 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

OM’s role in the Church is to mobilise people to share the knowledge of Jesus and His love with every generation in every nation. OM pioneers and leads initiatives to redeem lives, rebuild communities and restore hope in over 110 countries.

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