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Idomeni: a devil’s game

The most important and most asked question in Idomeni is, what is the West waiting for? Your agreement with Turkey does not handle our cause. The Europeans are using us to scare other refugees away.

Idomeni camp (Photo: Qusay Loubani) Idomeni camp (Photo: Qusay Loubani)A long and a wretched line of young men has lined up and they are waiting impatiently for the former regiment to get finished with their response to the call of nature. And doing that is not at all an easy matter, because eating, drinking and going on with everyday life has become such a difficult task in Idomeni.

Everything around here has turned into lines. Standing in that line with the others, the only thing I thought about was to take a deep look at the dark sky and try to make my waiting time go by quicker. That could also make me forget, even for a few moments, the most hateful smells I have ever had around me in my whole life. It’s no wonder given the dire quality of the food that we have been getting for about a month now. A few mobile toilets have been sent to serve many thousands of refugees.

The medical treatment around here is not doing well either, and both climate and general atmosphere are everything but healthy for adults, not to mention the kids.

While I am standing there observing that dark sky and asking God how much longer this tragedy is going to last, I take notice of a group of stars that have formed into the shape of a question mark, as if God himself is asking the same question.

For a second I shiver all over my body, followed by half a smile that betrays my thoughts: nobody cares about you. Nobody cares about that little boy who was playing above a parked railway carriage, got struck by the railway electricity and whose body fell half-charred onto the ground. Nobody cares about the two women who drowned crossing the river border to Macedonia, who died and buried with them an unsuccessful collective attempt to draw the world’s attention to our misery. And no one cares about that Syrian refugee who desperately set fire to himself in front of the world media to protest against the closed doors of hope. 

Lastly nobody cares even a bit about the open sit-in strike that is still taking place near the border on the railway tracks; women, children and men are waiting for a train that still doesn't want to come.

Idomeni camp (Photo: Qusay Loubani) Idomeni camp (Photo: Qusay Loubani)And then: the moment of the explosion, the first collision of its kind in Idomeni between Greek police and refugees for nearly three months. The collision of several hours was preceded by a moment of anger by a young Syrian who was trying to persuade the United Nations staff that it is useless to convince people to go to the official camps. And then screams began to mount slowly until they reached a desperate pitch and cries rang out about the West parking refugees in Idomeni in preparation for the final phase of closure: after the evacuation of the people gradually slow starvation, according to the policy, which will eventually push us to leave.

Widespread suffocation occurred in all parts of the camp which was covered by a giant cloud of gas canisters. The smell was still prevalent for days after the end of the fray.

Nothing yet can shake the Europeans out of their cold calmness to make them help the 10,000 of us human beings who are stranded here. I ask myself, what would they have they done if we were animals? Something, I suppose.

Every new day Idomeni is becoming a never ending story to its inhabitants and our calls have no echo at all. The most important and most asked question in Idomeni is, what is the West waiting for? Your agreement with Turkey doesn't handle our cause, your frequent meetings don't even mention us, your highly respected United Nations doesn't have any satisfying answers to our questions. And when they do answer, they tell us that relocation is the only answer to our situation. We should move to the ‘relatively acceptable’ camps the Greeks have recently set-up for us until we get ‘fairly divided’ between the countries of the EU.

Yes, we witnessed a small evacuation of some who got fed up with our wild camp, but no, we have not yet seen anything of that suspicious relocation program. So what is really happening, we ask the UNCHR, and nobody answers. After they have had enough of our questions they tell us that they don't know what's going on, they don't know if anybody is thinking about us, our case is an issue for the Greek government who ‘should’ have some answers to our questions.

So it’s a devil’s game. Every refugee in Idomeni now believes that the Europeans are using us to scare other refugees away from Europe. They have made up their minds and they are telling other refugees: ‘We have no more place for any refugees in our countries, and every refugee who even dares to think of seeking asylum in Europe should first take a look at our own Zaatari Camp in Greece, where he or she might end’.

Who knows, maybe there are some European countries who want to help us but they are still waiting to get some prizes of appeasement such as Turkey did before they move and get us released out of this prison. Until that time comes, when mercy gets a chance and the EU makes a move towards us, we will be waiting.

And so I write. In this ongoing quest by the Greek state to pre-empt attempts by journalists to enter the camp and transport a real live picture of what will happen later. Things will probably get worse before the silence of Europe is stirred; before something rattles the country's millions of souls for the cause of a few of the thousands that want protection and safety and decent living.

Read more articles and migrant testimony: People on the Move: Beyond Borders

About the author

Qusay Loubani has travelled from Idomeni to The Hague where he is currently residing. He is a Palestinian refugee who lived most of his life in Yarmuk refugee camp in Syria, where he worked as a journalist. 


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