Migrant families at a tent camp near the Greece-Macedonia border are trying to keep their spirits up in the face of sickness, rain, boredom, anxiety and a lack of information about whether they'll be able to continue their journey northward or be sent back to Turkey, Voice of America reports.
"Hope is all they have to drag them through days that swing between monotonous boredom hunched in their tents when it pours and a frantic scramble to get food and to repair tents when the sun shines," according to VOA.
About 35,000 migrants are stranded in Greece after neighboring Macedonia closed its borders on March 7, according to CNN. More than 13,000 are amassed in slum-like conditions near the border town of Idomeni in a camp built to accommodate 3,000 people, a Red Cross worker told The Daily Mail, and more are arriving every day.
An outbreak of diarrhea has made many children ill, and there is limited medical support, The Daily Mail reported. Scuffles have broken out between some men, garbage is piling up and the Daily Mail found one family heating up grass to feed their children.
The backlog is turning Greece into a "warehouse of souls," said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to CNN. Migrants who don't make it to the border are hunkering down in Athens, where the U.N. has turned former Olympic facilities and an abandoned airport into camps for refugees.
The border closing on March 7 came after talks between the EU and Turkey at an emergency summit in Brussels. Turkey made a surprise offer to take back migrants who have crossed into Greece from Turkey in exchange for 6 billion euros to help care for them, as well as the ability for Turkish citizens to travel in the EU without visas and expedited talks on membership in the EU, according to Reuters. The offer also involves the EU resettling one Syrian refugee in Europe for each one sent back to Turkey.
EU leaders hailed the proposed deal as a breakthrough, while the U.N. and various human rights groups warned that sending refugees back to Turkey from Greece would violate European and international law, the International Business Times reported.
One of the sticking points of the debate is the difference between a refugee and migrant, according to CNN, and the ranks of people fleeing to Europe include both.
"A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country because of armed conflict or persecution. Syrians are a prime example," CNN reported. "Refugees, as defined under the 1951 Refugee Convention, are entitled to basic rights under international law, including the right not to be immediately deported and sent back into harm's way."
Migrants, however, are those who are seeking a better life in a new country, such as those escaping poverty in Nigeria with hope of working in Europe. All refugees are migrants, CNN reported, but not all migrants are refugees — and those that are not must be processed through regular immigration channels.
CNN also posted a list of ways to help in the ongoing migrant crisis, including organizations on the ground in need of support.Comment on this story
In the meantime, tens of thousands of migrants in Greece are waiting to find out whether they will be deported back to Turkey.
One of them, Tariq Mohammed, 27, told The Associated Press that he would happily go to any country that would take him, his wife and two young daughters, who had fallen ill in the rainy camp near the Macedonian border. Mohammed left Aleppo, Syria, a month ago amid falling bombs and children as young as 10 carrying weapons and fighting in the street.
"'I need to work, to have a life for my children and family,' he said, the desperation visible on his face. 'You need life.'"