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World

Greece Moves Thousands Of Asylum-Seekers From Border Camp

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And when Europe closed its borders to migrants earlier this year, a makeshift camp of desperate people formed on the Greek-Macedonian border. They've been there for four months, all winter, hoping the borders to Northern Europe would open again. Instead, Greek authorities have begun dismantling their camp. Here is reporter Joanna Kakissis from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Nearly 9,000 asylum-seekers, many of them from Syria, were in the camp near the Greek village of Idomeni. The army arrived yesterday at dawn. Most aid organizations and all journalists were forced to leave. So a camp resident named Mustafa al-Hamoud documented the evacuation with a donated camera. He and three other asylum-seekers started Refugees.tv, which broadcasts news on Facebook from the camp.

(SOUNDBITE OF REFUGEES TV BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED REFUGEE: We saw a lot of armies, they around the camps, a lot of polices. And they said for everybody to go to other camp. They said to go to the buses. They bring a lot of buses for people.

KAKISSIS: Kiryn Lanning, of the International Rescue Committee, watched the buses leave.

KIRYN LANNING: There were approximately 27 buses that had left and up to 2,400 people who have been evacuated from the site and moved to a new site.

KAKISSIS: Those sites will be army-run camps around Greece. Migrants had camped out at this muddy patch of farmland near the Greek-Macedonian border after Europe closed its doors to them. Nearly half of the residents were children. The camp had few toilets and showers, but there were vendors, barbers, a volunteer-run school, even musicians.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REFUGEES: (Screaming).

KAKISSIS: Frustrated residents sometimes tried to storm the border. Macedonian police doused them with tear gas and rubber bullets. Greek authorities have repeatedly told asylum-seekers here that the borders will never open. The evacuation of the camp is expected to take several days. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.