by ALKISTI ALEVROPOULOU-MALLI | University of Cambridge, PhD, Biochemistry
Alkisti worked in and photographed the Idomeni refugee settlement in northern Greece and refugee communities in Athens in 2016. She heard the stories of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Kurdistan who are forced to wait there while trying to continue their journey into Macedonia, and she has been raising awareness through her photography. Recently, Alkisti hosted an exhibition in Darwin College called “Waiting for Home” and at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research during the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2016. Her portfolio can be accessed here.
This photo essay contains photographs taken by Alkisti in the camp at Idomeni. After the refugees were forcibly evicted from the settlement, Alkisti returned to the same spots she originally photographed to see what was left.
Top: Greek riot police blocking the train tracks that lead to the Macedonian/Greek border during a protest in Idomeni, photographed in March 2016. Several hundred people gathered to demand safe passage across the border. The protest remained relatively calm and peaceful on this particular occasion and the crowd eventually dispersed after a couple of hours. | Bottom: A view of the same railway crossing, photographed in August 2016. A new layer of fencing has since been added for extra protection to the railway tracks and nearby border crossing.
Top: A group of tents just outside the main entrance to the camp of Idomeni, photographed in March 2016. There was a large “overspill” area on the west side of the railway tracks outside the main area of the camp. Several hundred tents were pitched here along the only road into camp. | Bottom: This overspill area was cleared along with the rest of the camp in May 2016. When this photo was taken in August 2016, all that could be seen was a sea of corn with the West Vardar/Pelagonia mountain range in the distance.
Right: The gate of the border crossing separating Greece from Macedonia, photographed in March 2016. Until late February 2016 this was the official border crossing, where hundreds had to queue each day in the hopes of passing into the next country on the Balkan Trail. | Left: The gate photographed again in August 2016, with a Macedonian border guard resting in the heat. This gate has remained closed and heavily guarded since the Balkan Route was officially declared closed in late February 2016. However some still pay smugglers and risk making the crossing at other less guarded positions along the border.
Top: The Solidari-Tea tent in Idomeni, photographed in March 2016. Open twenty-four hours a day and serving fresh, hot, and satisfyingly sweet tea, the tea tent was always an important and bustling part of the camp. | Bottom: The field where the tea tent used to be, photographed again in August 2016. Everything is gone except for long planks of wood and old blankets embedded in the soil, which had been used to form a raised path out of the mud for those waiting for some hot tea.
Left: Kids play hop scotch in the southern section of Idomeni camp near the large info and tea tents, photographed in April 2016. | Right: Faded and barely visible, the hop scotch grid can still be seen in August 2016. All of the tents in the area have been cleared away and replaced with corn and sunflower fields. The faded paint on the path is one of few remaining reminders of what happened here.
A waterfall of tent debris in Idomeni. Once the camp was evicted, all the tents were cleared by bulldozers. It appears that the tents were dumped over the edge of an old lake-bed and left there to decompose in the sun. Photographed in August 2016.
A damaged UNHCR canvas tent flaps in the wind — the last tent standing as a reminder of the camp that used to exist here. Photographed in August 2016.
A yellow raincoat lies in the dirt, left over from the eviction of Idomeni. There used to be tents lining the food distribution queue here. Photographed in August 2016.
Graffiti reading, “Hope”, remains on a sign alongside the railway tracks in Idomeni. It is a simple reminder of the people who had lived there before and the hope they carried. Photographed in August 2016.
Top: One of the main paths in Idomeni, photographed in March 2016. This ran the length of a fence that sectioned off the train tracks, alongside which many people pitched their tents. | Bottom: The same view taken in August 2016. After the camp of Idomeni was evicted earlier this year, most of the camp was bulldozed and cleared away.
Top: A man sits alone, quietly smoking a cigarette outside his tent in Idomeni camp by the Greek-Macedonian border in April 2016. | Bottom: Remnants of the man’s tent are still in place in August 2016 after the camp was emptied and bulldozed.
Top: The main food distribution queue in Idomeni, photographed on a cold and rainy day in March 2016. A metallic cage-like structure was constructed to ensure that queuing was carried out in single file in order to avoid mobbing. | Bottom: The same spot photographed in August 2016 after the camp was cleared. All of the official buildings, distribution points, and offices (usually constructed out of shipping containers) in this part of the camp are now completely gone. All that is left is occasional bits of plumbing, concrete, and fencing.
Top: A small group of people gather to protest the closing of Europe’s borders and the living conditions within Idomeni camp. They are holding up a sign that reads, “We survived war but you make me wish I didn’t.” A similar daily protest was held at the same place every afternoon at 5pm. Photographed in March 2016. | Bottom: Since the closure and eviction of the camp at Idomeni, all tents have been cleared from the railway tracks and normal rail traffic has resumed. Very few signs of what had happened before can still be seen.
Originally from Athens, Alkisti has been based in Cambridge for the past few years working part time on a PhD in Biochemistry. Over the past year she has been involved with a range of groups and NGOs providing aid at different locations in Greece and continues to have a close relationship with them. Alkisti is currently working with organisations in the Greek island of Lesvos.