The Border of Greece and Macedonia — December 6
Arriving at the border this morning I was surprised to see so many buses lined up along the very narrow road leading to the border encampment – 15 to 20. I assume they were empty and ready to take refugees back to Athens. It appeared to indicate that today would be the day for a big police action to encourage the refugees not crossing the border to return to UNHCR camps in Athens. By the time I left this evening, only a few buses were stopped along the road, most appeared filled with refugees seeking to cross the border and there were hundreds if not thousands more refugees wandering around the area.
Occasionally small peaceful protests break out, whether it is Somali women with a sign, or men marching through camp chanting “Open the Border.” The MDM clinic working out of the Red Cross tent was up and running today. Holly and I participated in triaging the well over 200 refugees seeking medical treatment. It was the last day for two German doctors who had joined in. It was a pleasure working with them. Photos of the group below.
There was one true emergency requiring Greek ambulance transport to a hospital. I was approached by several Iranians asking me to follow them to a friend in a field bleeding from a head wound. I followed them across the tracks to a spot a hundred yards from the border. There in the middle of a field, surrounded by his friends, was a young man who was bleeding from the head. He was not response though he had a strong pulse and was breathing.
After a quick assessment, I enlisted six of his friends to place him on a mat/carpet and carry him the 100 yards to our clinic where the German doctor and I tended to him for the next hour and half until a Greek ambulance arrived. He was becoming more responsive by the time the ambulance arrived, blood pressure and pulse lowering from highs to more normal readings. It was great to be working with a German doctor, Norwegian nurse and a local Greek doctor as we treated our patient and saw him become more alert and responsive and then sent him on his way in the care of a Greek ambulance crew.
Every day for me begins with the thought and expectation that of course the numbers will decrease, the processing will improve and the need for refugees to wait for hours in the cold will disappear. Every day I expect refugees to take advantage of the buses that will return them to Athens and better conditions, and every day I expect that somehow the authorities will either stop the refugees or they will get the word that if they are not one of the three nationalities that Macedonia will accept, they will wait in Athens and not pay to take the unnecessary trip to the border.
Every day I realize that I am wrong and that the refugees will keep coming and the authorities on both sides of the border will continue to act as they have. I try to put myself in the place of the refugees, unable to cross the border, to understand what motivates them to remain with the unfounded hope that the border will be reopened to them. I imagine that taking a trip backward on their journey to an Athens Refugee camp could cause them to lose all hope, whereas, located at the border, they maintain a hope that somehow and for some reason circumstances will dictate that Macedonia must open the border.
Tonight Praksis was the medical team on duty from 11 pm to 8 am.
Here is picture of their van.
Tomorrow night we expect to work the late night shift with MDM.