Greece starts clearing Idomeni migrant border camp

Story highlights

  • More than 8,000 migrants and refugees expected to move by the end of week
  • Conditions at the makeshift camp have been dire

(CNN)Greece has begun moving more than 8,000 desperate migrants from an overwhelmed transit camp on its border with Macedonia.

George Kyritsis, a government spokesman, said in a live television interview on Greek TV station Skai, that the operation to clear the Idomeni camp began at dawn and said that "no violence would be used."
    "It is still early in the morning, people in Idomeni are waking up and packing their stuff to get on buses waiting to transfer them to organized facilities."
    Officials confirmed that six busloads of people had already left Idomeni for organized camps near the city of Thessaloniki, 80 kilometers or 50 miles away.
    Kyritsis said that 2,500 people had been moved in the past week with 8,000 remaining. He estimated that there are new facilities able to house 6,000 people, and said more should be ready soon.
    Police have prevented journalists from entering the camp, which was expected to be cleared by the end of the week, but Kyritsis said that this was "probably a temporary measure."
    Conditions at the camp have been dire. In March, the U.N. refugee agency said that many at the camp, about 40% of whom are children, were suffering from respiratory problems.
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    The closure followed similar moves by other countries along the so-called western Balkan route, the overland path taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants who have entered Europe from Turkey through Greece, on their trek to desirable northern European "destination countries" such as Germany and Sweden.
    Kyritsis estimated there were 54,000 to 55,000 migrants and refugees in Greece.