Refugee camp spread on the grounds of EKO petrol station near Idomeni. Greece. April, 2016
The refugee camp has spread on the grounds of the EKO petrol station near Idomeni, Greece. April 2016.Rena Effendi for TIME LightBox
Refugee camp spread on the grounds of EKO petrol station near Idomeni. Greece. April, 2016
Kantina - food truck selling drinks and sandwiches, where Lazaros Oulis worked to suppliment the loss of his farming income this season. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Lazarous Oulis, livestock farmer from Idomeni stands in a field where he planted crops to grow animal feed. Since September 2016, refugee tents have spread on nearly 250 acres of Lazaros Oulis'es land, all the way to the border with Macedonia, preventing him from working on his harvest and resulting in losses of Euro 20,000 for which he claims he had not received any compensation. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Since September 2016, refugee tents have spread on nearly 250 acres of Lazaros Oulis'es farm land (livestock farmer) preventing him from working on his harvest and resulting in losses of Euro 20,000 for which he claims he had not received any compensation. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Young Syrian men resting in a park in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Xauthoula Soupli - elected Mayor of Idomeni two years ago she is overwhelmed to see more than 10,000 people in her city that has a local population of 120. Her office has been recently broken into, people took chairs and papers to burn for firewood. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016
Refugee camp on the railway platforms, Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Nopi Pantelidou (left) and Gianna Konstantinidou work in the kitchen at a cafe in Idomeni. A small canteen that used to serve local residents and others passing through the Idomeni train station is now overflown with refugees. They come here to charge their phones and tablets and use the free WiFi. Some can afford a meal, but most pass their time playing cards, smoking and making calls to relatives abroad. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016
A small canteen that used to serve local residents and others passing through the Idomeni train station is now overflown with refugees. They come here to charge their phones and tablets and use the free WiFi. Some can afford a meal, but most pass their time playing cards, smoking and making calls to relatives abroad. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016
Boys playing by the pond near the border between Greece and Macedonia. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Elderly resident of Idomeni - Panagiota Vasiliadou age 82, at home with Saha (30 y.o. refugee from Syria). Panagiota is hosting eight Syrian refugees in her home. They have been living with her for over a month. Panagiota is paying for food, while the women help cook the meals. Her water and electricity bill more than doubled, since she has welcomed them in her home. She says she cannot afford to support eight adults with her pension of EURO 400 a month, but she does not know how to tell them to leave. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Saha, age 30 is a refugee from Damascus, she has a degree in cosmitology and is fluent in French. When she was 18 years old she apprenticed at a beauty salon in Paris where she worked alongside a professional cosmetologist. She worked in a salon in Damascus before she decided to leave for Europe. Ever since her arrival in Idomeni she has been living in Panagiota's house and helping in the kitchen. "I know I can't stay here forever, but with the border closed, I have no place to go at the moment. I don't know how to plan my future." - Saha says. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Refugees hang their clothes to dry on the barbwire fence of the Greece-Macedonia border. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Refugee men taking shower with pumped ground water coming from a pipe used by farmers to irrigate fields around Idomeni. Greece. April, 2016
Nicos Spiridis 21 y.o., brought his truck to Idomeni from a nearby town. "Bread was sold here for Euro 4 when I came first. Everyone needed bread and nobody was selling it at a fair price." - he said. Working for up to 10 hours every day at the refugee camp, Nicos is selling bread for 0.80 euro cents. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016.
Packaged food and snacks for sale in the courtyard of an Albanian family that had come to Greece as refugees 25 years ago and settled in Idomeni. Family members sell food and drinks to the refugees from the porch of their home. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Members of an Albanian family who have come to Greece as refugees 25 years ago and settled in Idomeni sell food and drinks to the newly arrived refugees from the porch of their home. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Refugees charge their phones through extention cords connected to a generator on the street behind the train station in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Antonia Mikropolou, 74 y.o. an elderly shopkeeper in Idomeni is cordial with the refugees that come to buy snacks, drinks and cigarettes. Since the inflow of reguees, this small convenience store has been turning much higher profits than before. Idomeni, a small town on the border with Macedonia with a population of only 120 original residents, now hosts more than 10,000 refugees who set up an informal camp here. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Syrian family having a picnic in a park in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Syrian girl playing in a park outside a school in Idomeni. The school has been used as a storage for food supplies until it was recently looted. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Refugee tents on the grounds of Hara hotel, cafe and petrol station in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
The refugee camp has spread on the grounds of the EKO petrol station near Idomeni, Greece. April 2016.
Rena Effendi for TIME LightBox
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Inside the Tiny Greek Village on the Front Lines of the Migrant Crisis

On a rainy night in March, Lazarous Oulis, a farmer in the north of Greece, stuck his head through the window of the food truck that has kept his family from going broke. It was parked at the edge of a muddy field where he once grew corn and other crops, but now the land stood fallow. All around him, thousands of families from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan had set up tents atop the soil, turning his farmland into a giant and unregulated camp for refugees.

“All this land belongs to me,” he told a TIME reporter while his wife and other relatives made sandwiches to sell for a few euros apiece to a waiting crowd of asylum-seekers. “How am I supposed to cultivate it now? It’s been occupied!”

Since more than a million migrants and refugees from around the Middle East arrived last year, the lives of many communities across the European Union have been deeply disrupted in the effort to accommodate them. But none have faced more strain than the tiny Greek village of Idomeni, whose native population is just 140 people. They now play host to more than 10,000 refugees.

Read More: Pope Francis Calls for World Action on Refugees in Visit to Greece

Throughout last year, this village on Greece’s northern border was no more than a transit zone for migrants crossing into Macedonia on their way to Western Europe. They would stay for a few days at most before moving on. Then, at the end of February, the Balkan nations to the north of Greece shut their borders to migrants as part of an E.U. deal to stop the refugee crisis. These measures worked. The flood of asylum seekers into Western Europe has slowed to a trickle this spring.

But as a side effect, the deal has left more than 50,000 asylum seekers stranded in Greece for months, unable to travel north. Despite the deplorable conditions at the camp in Idomeni, where food and sanitary facilities are often in short supply, thousands of families from Syria and Iraq have refused to move to state-run camps in other parts of Greece. “We would rather die in this dirt than take one step backward,” says Mustafa Omar, a refugee from the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo, who arrived in Idomeni in early March. “One month. One year. It doesn’t matter. We will stay until they open the borders.”

Read More: Refugees on Greek Island Put Faith in Pope Francis on Eve of Visit

For the most part, locals have done their best to be patient, often giving out food for free and sometimes allowing migrants into their homes to take showers and rest. Even as their farmland was trampled, the Oulis family did not raise much of a fuss this winter. “We feel for these people,” says Lazaros, the family patriarch, a bald and burly man in his early 50s. “But we cannot wait forever.”

Read More: The First Migrants Deported Back to Turkey Under an E.U. Deal Face an Uncertain Future

At the start of April, when it came time for him to till the soil, his patience finally snapped. Revving his tractor, he plowed the machine directly through the camp, ripping down some of the tents before police arrived to stop him. “I have to start sowing the land,” Oulis says. “Otherwise I’m finished, bankrupt, you understand?” The policemen expressed their sympathy. But until European leaders figure out a plan for the migrants marooned in Greece, Oulis and the other locals will have to find a way to cope.

Rena Effendi is a photographer based in Istanbul.

Olivier Laurent, who edited this photo essay, is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

Simon Shuster is a TIME correspondent based in Berlin.

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