Refugee crisis: Video shows Greek farmer ploughing field filled with refugee tents as pre-deal chaos intensifies

Tensions rise ahead of Monday’s deal to send Syrians back to Turkey

Adam Withnall@adamwithnall
Sunday 03 April 2016 12:28
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Greece: Farmer PLOUGHS land where refugees are living in tents

Reports of clashes and chaotic scenes continue to emerge from the front line in Europe’s refugee crisis, as those in Greece fear for what will happen on Monday when a deal comes into force to send them back to Turkey.

Amid fears for refugees’ safety and questions over the legality of deporting asylum seekers without considering their cases, isolated incidents at the end of this week gave a taste of what was to come.

Video footage has emerged of a desperate farmer ploughing his field – despite the fact it is covered with refugee tents spilled over from the camp at Idomeni on the Macedonian border.

More than 11,000 people, mostly war refugees, remain in what was a transit camp until the decision came from European leaders to close the western Balkan route.

The incident on Thursday took place nearby where children were playing in a small field, and there were concerns for safety until the farmer was stopped by police.

Clearly angry, he told reporters: “I need to plow my field. Not somebody else's field, mine! I have a business with 70-80 calves, I want to produce (food for them), feed them, because, financially, I can't take this anymore.

“I told some NGOs here that I would give them a couple of acres so they could build two large sheds and I could save the rest of my field, nobody paid attention to me,” he said. “I don't have a problem with the (refugee) families, no problem at all. I could have been in their place. But I, also, have obligations.”

Some refugees expressed sympathy with the farmer’s complaints, but asked where they were supposed to go now that the migration route had been sealed.

Reshal Hamdo, a 32-year-old Syrian, told the Associated Press: “He is right, I say that he is right because it's his land. We don't know what we will do, this is not our country, it's not our land.”

On Friday, rioting at the Greek island of Chios saw at least three people stabbed. They were protesting against the “chaotic” and unsanitary environment within the island’s refugee camp, which has already exceeded its stated capacity of 2,000.

And on Saturday, refugees in Idomeni staged a protest blocking lorries on the road linking Greece and Macedonia. In a counter-protest, lorry drivers used their vehicles to prevent all traffic coming through, leading to a tense standoff.

With the EU’s controversial migrant transfer deal coming into effect on Monday, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for international migration and development told the BBC it could be illegal.

Peter Sutherland said: “Their rights have to be absolutely protected where they are deported to, in other words Turkey. There has to be adequate assurances they can’t be sent back from Turkey to Syria.”

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