‘We’re human, how long can we tolerate this situation?’ Stories from the refugee camps on the Greek islands
We have spent this week travelling across the Greek islands of Chios and Lesvos to document the conditions that thousands of fleeing refugees are living in right now. They are all waiting to find out if they can continue their journeys to safety.
Make no mistake – it is winter here too, so it has been miserably cold and wet for months and it’s not over yet. That’s why we’re urging the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to move everyone to the mainland where they can be better looked after as they await their fate. Demand that he takes action by tweeting at him now:
LINK TO TWEET:
.@PrimeministerGR – please don’t forget about the refugees stranded on the Greek islands. They are human beings who deserve better conditions and a brighter future away from there. #RefugeesWelcome #OpenTheIslands
There are 15,000 people currently stranded in the Greek islands, the vast majority having fled from their war torn homes. Following a deal between the EU and Turkey in March 2016, thousands have been forced to remain there for months on end as the Greek authorities hope to hurriedly send people to Turkey. The agreement is based on the premise that Turkey is a safe country for Syrian refugees – which it is not.
The deal has been hailed as a success by many since it reduced the number of people arriving in Greece. But in reality this is yet another way for the EU to shift its responsibility towards refugees onto other countries. It also condemns thousands of very vulnerable people to appalling conditions.
We’ve spoken to dozens of people during our visit – many have arrived alone, while others with their young families in tow. They have come here from all over the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, including from Syria, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Eritrea and Somalia.
Before coming to the camps, they all had real lives like anyone else. They were engineers, bakers, shopkeepers, construction workers, farmers, lawyers, students, teachers and more. But in the face of extreme danger, they have been forced to flee their homes and now find themselves in the camps of Vial and Moria in Greece.
The Vial camp on Chios hosts about 2,000 refugees. Some – if they’re ‘lucky’ – get to live in what looks like a shipping container. These dwellings are dry and solid, though still often freezing, particularly at night. The rest must make do in a large canvas tent that contains dozens of self-made rooms from blankets. Each one has several people inside, and they are pitch black as extra blankets are draped over them for insulation and privacy.