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Greek authorities have started removing thousands of migrants and refugees from a makeshift camp near the Macedonian border, where they have been stranded since Macedonia closed its border in February.

Police vehicles and buses will move the migrants from the Idomeni camp to better-structured facilities farther south, near the city of Thessaloniki, the BBC reported. Some 10,000 asylum seekers are staying at the squalid camp, where food and sanitary facilities are in short supply.

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

Many of the migrants have previously refused to abandon the camp, saying doing so would displace them away from the border — a necessary crossing point on the journey into northern Europe, where most of them are headed. More than 1 million refugees, many escaping conflicts in the Middle East, have entered the E.U. by crossing the Mediterranean Sea since early last year. Officials in Europe, who have struggled to keep the influx of immigrants under control, signed a deal in March that planned to send migrants back to Turkey if their asylum claims are refused.

Macedonia closed its border in February, following the lead of other European nations. The situation has resulted in a human bottleneck in Greece, where some 50,000 asylum seekers remain stranded.

Greek authorities say they aim to completely clear the makeshift camp in Idomeni village within 10 days.

“A thing like Idomeni cannot be maintained. It only serves the interests of smugglers,” government spokesperson Giorgos Kyritsis said on Greek television Monday, according to the BBC. He added that the relocation effort is in “their own interest,” referring to the refugees.

“The fundamental thing is for the people to be transferred to where the conditions are humane,” he said.


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