More than 7,000 refugees, including families with young children, braved torrential rains on Thursday, part of a 100-mile trek from Greece's northern border into Macedonia and beyond into Europe. Clambering through thick mud, strewn clothes and rubbish, exhaustion was etched into the faces of the beleaguered displaced; an exodus that local Greek police said was the single biggest wave of refugees they have seen so far.
Desperate to stay dry, the crowd used makeshift coverings, including plastic sheets and bin bags and they moved slowly through the brown swill. According to AP, parents held their children aloft so that Macedonian police would let them through the checkpoint. Many of the young were crying. All were stained with mud and filth.
At the border village of Idomeni, thousands awaited entry into Europe in a muddy field. Tents were pitched to provide respite from the downpour. Many gathered at the nearby train station, crowding around fires for heat. Speaking to AP, Abas Jizi, 30, from Deir ez-Zor in Syria, said police in Lesbos hit him. Stood with his family huddled around a blaze for warmth, he said: "We waited for 10 days to get our papers. We got to Athens yesterday and we set off straight away for here." Jizi said he left his homeland to get away from the bombings. He plans to travel to Denmark to start a new life.
Thousands crossed the border on Thursday, but more are coming. Greek authorities on Lesbos registered 17,000 refugees this week, with the government in Athens supplying extra ferries to take them to the mainland. Overcrowding and deteriorating conditions continue to blight the small Aegean island. Most of those arriving in Greece are from Syria, families caught up in the existential struggle between the barbarous Islamic State and the equally savage regime of Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker called for EU nations to accept a further 120,000 refugees from northern Africa and the Middle East. Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Commission President braved catcalls and interruptions to demand the bloc’s 28 governments home more refugees on top of 40,000 Syrians already being discussed.