Idomeni rail line finally cleared of refugee protesters; shippers decry situation

18 April 2016
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Greece’s main north-south rail line leading out of the country was finally opened on Monday after being closed at the Idomeni border post for 30 days due to third country nationals blocking the tracks.

The protesters, identified as Mideast refugees and undocumented migrants, had demanded that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) open its borders to them so they could continue northwards to preferred destinations in northern and western Europe, something the neighboring has refused, bolstering its border security in the process.

A police operation in the early morning cleared the protesters from the Greek side of the tracks and removed the tents set up on the site. According to authorities, police were not met with opposition.

In a related development, transport companies using the rail network to ship goods from Greece to the rest of Europe and vice versa have repeatedly protested to the government over the situation, with much of the criticism aimed at relevant minister Christos Spirtzis. Representatives of import and export companies charged that the latter has merely acted as a “distant observer” to the one-month-long blockade of the rail line.

The rail line’s closure also negatively affected Greek rail operator Trainose, during a period when the state-run company is amid a privatization process.

Transporting through Bulgaria means higher costs (roughly 400 euros per wagon) and longer delivery times, given the longer distance and more antiquated rail network through that country.

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