Where Sealed Borders And Fake News Meet
In Diavata, Northern Greece, the result of deliberate misinformation and an inhumane migration policy lead to thousands of trapped refugees. Here’s what I saw.
Diavata is approximately 60km away from the border with North Macedonia, and about 500 refugees gathered on Thursday in a field near a camp in northern Greece in the hope of crossing the border and fleeing towards northern Europe. They have gathered following an anonymous call on social media to reach the heavily guarded border. At the same time in Athens, refugees left the main railway station after blocking trains on Friday and services resumed on Saturday.
The refugees spent the night in tents, lighting fires to stay warm and clashed with police because they believed false reports on social media that restrictions on travel to central and northern Europe had been lifted and that buses chartered by non-governmental organizations are waiting on the other side of the border with North Macedonia.
When the refugees tried to break police lines, officers responded with tear gas and stun grenades hitting also a photo journalist in the head. Several refugees, including children, fainted amid the clouds of tear gas on Saturday.
The protesting refugees in Diavata are mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many feel trapped in Greece and despair with the slow pace of the processing of asylum applications.
“I won’t go back there”
says Mahmoud to Are You Syrious?, when talking of the camp that he has come from. He cannot cope without support, which he has not found in Greece. He says he will not give up, though it seems unlikely things will improve.
The initiative by a group calling itself “Caravan of Hope” was reminiscent of a similar disinformation drive back in 2016 that fueled tensions in the area of Idomeni on the border with North Macedonia.
Even as the makeshift camp started emptying late Saturday, a group was heard cheering loudly. Asked why, they said Chancellor Angela Merkel was opening Germany’s borders. Like the previous reports, this one also was false.
Police detained a few of the 60 who had no valid papers.
Read this extensive report from Diavata which sums up the situation:
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