As the number of refugees pouring into Greece slowed, Athens said Saturday it had started emptying the main refugee camp on its closed border with Madedonia.
Some 400 refugees from the squalid Idomeni camp were bused to Turkey on Friday as part of a deal worked out between Ankara and the EU.
“There’s nothing to do here. The children are getting sick,” Janger Hassan, 29, who had been at the camp for a month with his family, told Agence France-Presse. “It’s a bad situation the last two days. It’s windy, sometimes it’s raining here. We don’t have a choice. We have to move.”
The border between Greece and Macedonia was closed this month, blocking what had been a major gateway to Western Europe.
AFP reported 11,603 people remained in the border camp Saturday, but the Greek government pledged to step up evacuation efforts Monday.
“More than 2,000 places can be found immediately for the refugees that are at the Idomeni camp, and from Monday on this number can double,” said Georgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for the agency coordinating Greece’s response to the refugee crisis.
— Luke Johnston (@I_am_LPFJ) March 26, 2016
Greece said Thursday no refugees had arrived on its Aegean islands for 24 hours for the first time since the EU-Turkey deal took effect. More than 50,000 refugees are reported in Greece.
Human rights groups have criticized the EU-Turkey deal on refugees, saying it restricts the ability of asylum-seekers to have their applications processed fairly.
The deal means a long wait for those who want to resettle in Europe, but Turkish officials have said it is the only way to resolve the refugee crisis. Turkey currently is hosting about 1.7 million Syrian refugees in 22 government camps.
Some 3 million people have fled the Syrian civil war, but not all the refugees are from Syria. Thousands also are fleeing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.
“The conversation so far has only really been about Syrians, and that’s a major issue of concern,” said Anna Shea, a researcher on refugee rights for Amnesty International in London, currently conducting interviews in Turkey. “Hundreds of thousands of other people have even less clear legal status, are even more vulnerable and have even less support.”