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A man warms his feet at a sprawling refugee camp along the border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece and have been languishing in the rain, mud, and cold with insufficient food and medical care while sleeping in small tents, March 12, 2016
A man warms his feet at a sprawling refugee camp along the border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece and have been languishing in the rain, mud, and cold with insufficient food and medical care while sleeping in small tents, March 12, 2016James Nachtwey for TIME
A man warms his feet at a sprawling refugee camp along the border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece and have been languishing in the rain, mud, and cold with insufficient food and medical care while sleeping in small tents, March 12, 2016
A boy peers out of a tent at a refugee camp in Greece at the Macedonian border, where 12,000 inhabitants—nearly all of them Syrians, Iraqis or Afghans—have been huddling in their shelters atop the mud, March 13, 2016.
A man sleeps at a camp for refugees near the border town of Idomeni in Greece. Thousands are stranded in Greece because of border closures in the Balkans, March 17, 2016.
RRefugees seek warmth in a camp at the border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. The path that more than a million asylum seekers had used to reach Germany last year, going from Turkey to Greece and up through the Balkans is no longer possible because of border closures, leaving thousands stranded in Greece, March 13, 2016.
Refugees live in tents along the railroad tracks at a camp near Idomeni, Greece at the border with Macedonia, where thousands are stranded in the rain, mud and the cold with insufficient food and medical care, March 17, 2016.
A woman hangs laundry at a camp where thousands of refugees are stranded near the village of Idomeni, Greece at the border with Macedonia, March 12, 2016.
Refugees in camp at border of Greece and Macedonia near town of Idomeni. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece and have been languishing in the rain and the mud and the cold with insufficient food and medical care while sleeping in small tents. A couple thousand refugees walked overland to get around border fence and into Macedonia. Crossing a river along the way.by James Nachtwey
Laundry hangs on a line in the sprawling camp for refugees near the village of Idomeni, Greece at the border with Macedonia, where thousands are now stranded unable to make their way north, March 13, 2016.
Thousands of refugees are stranded in a "no-mans land" camp at border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. Since it was created around railway tracks last summer, conditions have grown increasingly unlivable, with shortages of food, toilets and health care, as well as beds. The camp’s inhabitants cook their meals over bonfires of plastic and other trash, March 17, 2016.
Tents line the inside of an old railway hangar near the town of Idomeni, Greece at the border with Macedonia. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece leaving thousands stranded in desperate conditions, March 13, 2016.
A woman hangs laundry in a camp for refugees at the border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. Since Balkan countries have shut their borders to asylum seekers, thousands are now stranded in a "no-mans land" in Greece, March 12, 2016.
Refugees in camp at border of Greece and Macedonia near town of Idomeni. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece and have been languishing in the rain and the mud and the cold with insufficient food and medical care while sleeping in small tents.by James Nachtwey
Refugees languish in the rain, mud and cold at the sprawling Idomeni camp on the Greece Macedonia border, March 16, 2016.
Refugees in camp at border of Greece and Macedonia near town of Idomeni. The refugees are being stopped from moving beyond Greece and have been languishing in the rain and the mud and the cold with insufficient food and medical care while sleeping in small tents. by James Nachtwey
A woman sits in front of a line of Greek police in riot gear at the Idomeni camp in Greece. The refugees have been demanding the reopening of the border with Macedonia, in the hopes of making their way north in Europe, March 12, 2016.
A man prays near the railroad tracks in the Idomeni refugee camp at the Greece Macedonia border, where thousands of refugees now seek shelter, as they are unable to make their way further north in Europe, March 18, 2016.
A man carries his child across a river into Macedonia on March 15, 2016 Scores of refugees, including elderly, disabled, and families with children attempted to make the dangerous trek.
At the border of Greece and Macedonia near town of Idomeni, refugees are stranded and stopped from moving beyond Greece. They have been languishing in the rain, mud and cold, March 14, 2016.
A man warms his feet at a sprawling refugee camp along the border of Greece and Macedonia near the town of Idomeni. The
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James Nachtwey for TIME
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James Nachtwey: A New Purgatory for Thousands of Refugees

Mar 24, 2016

They live in a legal limbo – thousands of men, women and children stuck in a squalid camp near the town of Idomeni along the border of Greece and Macedonia. Their fate contingent on a new European Union plan that would see most of them deported back to Turkey.

The conditions at the camp, witnessed by TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey, are abysmal. People languish in the mud and the rain. "Conditions there have grown increasingly nasty, with shortages of food, toilets and health care, not to mention beds," writes TIME's Simon Shuster. "Spread out on a field where corn once grew, thousands of the camp’s inhabitants have been sleeping for weeks in flimsy tents on top of the mud, often burning plastic and other garbage to stay warm."

Read next: This 13-Year-Old Girl Stranded in a Refugee Camp Is Praying to Get Out

Nachtwey's photographs present a harrowing portrait of this new purgatory – a field where hopes for better lives for thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have been crushed – echoing some of Europe's darkest moments.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

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