Appalling camp where desperate migrants can be stuck for years

Appalling camp where desperate migrants can be stuck for years
By: World News Posted On: October 05, 2019 View: 13

Appalling camp where desperate migrants can be stuck for years

There are some images you won't see on postcards from Lesbos - one of the most beautiful of the Aegean Islands in Greece.

Tourists are far away from the hillside which houses the sprawling Moria camp where thousands of asylum seekers and migrants wait months, even years, to have their claims to stay processed.

The camp is by any assessment appalling to live in.

Michelle Clifford Lesbos migrants package
Image: Up to four families share a tent or living container

Up to four families share a tent or living container. Raw sewage is everywhere and violence and fights over food are a regular occurrence.

Close by is the Team Humanity centre where volunteers - many of them asylum seekers themselves - provide help for women and families who are the worst off even by the standards of the camp.

This week dozens have come to find shelter after a fire at Moria left them with nothing.

Michelle Clifford Lesbos migrants package
Image: Pallets have been placed under tents to keep them dry in the rain

The facility was set up by a man who tells us an extraordinary story.

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Salam Aldeen was running a business in Denmark in 2015 when he saw an image which made global headlines.

It was the body of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach.

So touched was Salam he gave up his old life and moved to Lesbos to found his volunteer agency.

Now Team Humanity is one of the many non-government organisations at the heart of providing care.

TOPSHOT - Migrants are seen on board a ''Refugee Rescue NGO'' rescue boat, following a rescue operation by a Frontex patrol vessel, at the port of Skala Sikamias, on the island of Lesbos, on October 2, 2019. - Fisherman Christos Halkiotis in the village of Skala on the Greek island of Lesbos gives short shrift to a promised Greek government crackdown to curb rising migration flows. "It's all up to the Turks," said Halkiotis, calmly unspooling his lines and hooks in a bucket. "They're the ones le
Image: Violence and fights over food are a regular occurrence

He says: "We have so many children, so many families and I am so worried about the winter. The winter is going to be hell for all of them. Especially sleeping in the summer tents. It is going to be insanity."

He says the authorities are failing asylum seekers - even accusing the government of keeping standards of living so low in the hope of deterring others from coming.

"Without the volunteers, the organisations on the island, these people can't survive. So thanks to the volunteers these people still have someone. Someone to help them because the government doesn't help."

From the evidence we see in Lesbos volunteers are indeed covering critical gaps in care for refugees and migrants.

TOPSHOT - Migrants wait to board in a bus as they transfer to a camp, following a rescue operation by a Frontex patrol vessel, at the port of Skala Sikamias, on the island of Lesbos, on October 2, 2019. - Fisherman Christos Halkiotis in the village of Skala on the Greek island of Lesbos gives short shrift to a promised Greek government crackdown to curb rising migration flows. "It's all up to the Turks," said Halkiotis, calmly unspooling his lines and hooks in a bucket. "They're the ones letting
Image: Many more will be needing help this winter

People collecting and delivering food and clothes to Moria, doctors giving their time for free and refugees giving back after having been granted permission to remain in Greece.

We meet Ali Shams Eddin in a tented overspill from the Moria camp.

He knows what it is like to live in this place. He entered Greece from Syria himself as a young man and now works for the the Movement on the Ground charity. The aim is to improve living conditions in and around Moria.

Ali shows us how Movement on the Ground has levelled the ground in large parts of what is now called the Olive Grove.

Pallets have been placed under tents to keep them dry in the rain. But with the winter coming he is worried about the area still to be done.

Michelle Clifford Lesbos migrants package
Image: Pallets have been placed under tents to keep them dry in the rain

He tells us: "When bad weather comes of course a lot of tents are going to be broken down, a lot of people are going to be wet. Wet clothing and very cold and that's why we need to help people."

He has an insight into the lives of the thousands here, he understands what it is like to live so basically and with the constant fear about your future.

Michelle Clifford Lesbos migrants package - Salam Aldeen
Image: Salam Aldeen was a Syrian refugee himself and now helps others

Recalling his days in the camp he says: "Of course it is difficult, it is not easy at all. But we are survivors. There is no other choice and we have to live with it. You have to be strong and know how to stand up for yourself and find a way to survive."

And there will be many more to care for this winter. Day after day this summer more asylum seekers and migrants have made it to Greece from Turkey via the sea. We witnessed dozens of boats arriving in the days we were on Lesbos.

At 4am from the small quayside in the village of Skala Sikamineas we watch as volunteers in a former RNLI boat pick up dozens of Afghans from an EU border patrol vessel too big to dock here. The crew belong to Refugee Rescue and their aim is to avoid deaths at sea.

Boat coordinator Giannis Skenderoglou tells us: "We are here to help and we are here to try to fill any gap that we feel exists and there are still people who are willing to come here and volunteer to help."

The boat's name is Mo Chara which means "my friend" in Irish and for a time that is what the volunteers from Refugee Rescue want to be.

Michelle Clifford Lesbos migrants package
Image: Volunteers are indeed covering critical gaps in care

As women and children step onto land Pat Rubio Bertran welcomes them, wrapping freezing children in foil blankets.

She will be with them as they are taken to a centre to be checked over and given clothes as they have arrived with only small bags and rucksacks.

But soon after their will be taken to the Moria camp where they will likely spend many months.

"That is one of the hardest aspects of our work," she says.

"Knowing that having reached Europe it should mean safety but it is just the start of a very long administrative process and hard situations."

Some criticise the work of Refugee Rescue and charities saying they encourage more migrants to come to Lesbos. But there is no denying the need on this island is overwhelming and the loss of the volunteers' work would impact thousands.

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