The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Eerie photos show the aftermath of a rapidly evacuated refugee camp

Over the course of the past two days the population of the makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni, on Greece's northern border with Macedonia, went from about 8,000 to zero.

Aid workers and photographers have been publishing photos of the forced eviction -- Greek authorities have been trying to close the camp for months and transfer its inhabitants to official camps -- and the suddenness of the closure has left a sea of discarded possessions where, for the past few months, so many carried out their lives in limbo.

The 10,000 who were in Idomeni, which is the name of a village near the camp, were essentially stuck there. Macedonia closed its border to all asylum seekers on March 9, plugging what was once the most trafficked route to the rest of Europe.

Humanitarian groups provided most of the facilities at the camp, with the Greek government contributing cleaning crews and portable toilets, according to the Associated Press.

Conditions at the informal camp were often nightmarish. After frequent rains, the camp would become mired in mud, the air cold and damp. Outbreaks of infections, rashes and lice were common. Hopelessness occasionally devolved into violence.

There were no reports of violence as Greek police continued to put refugees, by the thousands, onto buses headed toward other, more formal camps, run by the Greek army. More than 700 police were deployed in the operation. Journalists were banned from entering the site during the process.

Arrivals in Greece have fallen off sharply after a deal between the European Union and Turkey allowed Greece to send back all refugees to Turkey, where they are now expected to stay and apply for asylum. About 54,000 refugees who arrived before the E.U.-Turkey deal remain in camps across Greece.

Not all of those who were at Idomeni are complying with orders to go to official camps, though. Since the evacuation started Tuesday, more than 400 have moved on foot to another informal camp 3½ miles away, close to the Evzoni border crossing into Macedonia.

“If I go to a camp, nobody knows how long I will be there,” Ahmad Khayata, a 26-year-old Syrian refugee from Aleppo, told the Associated Press. He said that he plans to pay a smuggler 800 euros ($890) to get him to the Serbian capital of Belgrade -- one step closer to his eventual goal of reaching Germany. “Some people say it will be for a year, others for six months. At Idomeni, I spent three months just eating and sleeping, but I want to work,” said Khayata.

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