by Kelly Lynn Lunde

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In light of the police-led evacuation of an informal camp at Polykastro in Greece on June 13, we revisit the 1,800-strong settlement made up of people who sought refuge at a gas station for several months, through the images and words of photographer Kelly Lynn Lunde.

Once a forgettable rest stop outside the city of Polykastro in the north of Greece, the local EKO gas station served as a refuge for roughly 1,300–1,800 refugees waiting to cross into Macedonia. Most at the camp were Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish families who chose it over the crowded and intense Idomeni camp, 12 miles (20km) to the north, where 11,000 other refugees have been camping.

It was a prudent decision at the time, especially given the evacuation of Idomeni in late May. But, on June 13 around 300 police officers began moving refugees out of EKO camp. Only a couple of state media outlets were permitted at the scene, according to wire reports. This latest transfer is part of a plan to relocate 4,000 refugees from makeshift camps along the Macedonian border to state-run reception centers. Many being relocated fear that they will be entrapped in facilities where the conditions mirror those at detention centers on Greek islands, with barbed wires, no freedom of movement and exasperating delays in asylum applications.

The following is an account by photographer Kelly Lynn Lunde who documented the daily lives and the tribulations of the community that was awaiting an opportunity to move on from Greece, well before the relocation.

POLYKASTRO – The refugees at the EKO camp have been living in tents provided by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and other independent organizations. They make up just one of several informal encampments along the highway.

In April, many of the refugees, whose movements have been stifled by the shutting of various borders, staged a demonstration on the highway. Their protest was also a reaction to the EU-Turkey deal that would return many of them en masse to Turkey, and which has led to further closures of the border into Macedonia and across the Balkan route into northern Europe.

Organizers of the protests allowed regular vehicles to pass but blocked shipping trucks that use the thoroughfare to cross the border. For five days, the protesters pitched tents on the highway, played music, cooked food, danced, and slept there through the night. They simply wanted to bring attention to their desperate living conditions in the faint hope they would be allowed to pass through the Balkan route.

A significant number of those at the EKO camp and elsewhere in Greece are hoping to join immediate family members already in Germany, Sweden and other European countries. According to UNHCR, 40 percent of those who arrived in March 2016 were under 18 years of age.

This photo essay originally appeared on Refugees Deeply, and you can find the original here. For important news about the global migration crisis, you can sign up to the Refugees Deeply email list.