It Was A Chaotic But Beautiful Symphony, Dysfunctional At Times, But Nevertheless Beautiful

Has the international volunteers, grass-root organizations and NGOs still a positive impact on the refugee crisis in Greece, ore have they played out their part as a independent neutral force who was driven by humanitarian values where money, politics and self preservation wasn’t the main objective.

In 2015 when the refugee crisis hit Greece, and the biggest mass movement of people in Europe since the Second World War started, thousands of volunteers traveled to the Greek islands to help as hundreds of thousands of people landed on the shores of the Greek Aegean islands, fleeing war and persecution. The job these volunteers did was unprecedented, driven by humanitarian values, a pronounced desire to help, it’s the most unselfish act I have ever witnessed. It was a chaotic but beautiful symphony, dysfunctional at times, but nevertheless beautiful, because it was driven by a genuine desire to help.

From the peak of the refugee crisis, literally hundreds of grass-root organizations and NGOs was formed, many of the organizations operating on the Greek islands today was borne at this time. In any crisis there will be people who are trying to take advantage of the situation, who are hiding behind a humanitarian pretext to benefit financially, but most organizations had genuine goal to help as many as possible, both refugees and locals. Volunteers from all over the world, from all walks of life, came to Greece to help as best they could.

dav

To coordinate humanitarian aid in a very chaotic situation, with hundreds of organizations with their own agendas and thousands of volunteers wasn’t without challenges. There was often disputes between organizations on how to do things, who should do what when and where. Rivalry between organizations on who was in charge and who should decide was a constant issue, many times overclouding the very reason they where there in the first place. There where even disputes over who had the right to help refugees when they arrived, and we often heard organizations use the phrase “our refugee” as if people who arrived was someone’s property.

To get information was many times also a problem, organizations used information to fundraise on social media, and was not willing to share information they had to others, it was referred to by some organizations as their “media potential”, and was one of the main reasons Aegean Boat Report was founded. I believe all information should be available and free for everyone to use, and not a privilege of a few. Information was crucial on the ground to be able to take good decisions, get a better understanding on what was going on at any given time.

Don’t take me wrong, volunteers and grass-root organizations did an amazing job, and some still do! Their efforts was essential, filled gaps between what was provided by the government and the actual need on the ground. In the beginning Greece would literally have collapsed, if it hadn’t been for the volunteers, Greece was not prepared for what happened and had no possibility to handle the situation on their own. Looking back it’s perhaps easy to criticize, but many mistakes was also made by these organizations, some more damaging than others.

What many organizations and volunteers forgot, was that they were not in their own country, and many decisions made had direct impact on the locals and local communities. Some organizations operated as if they owned the place, and in many cases didn’t consult the local president or involve locals in the decision making process, structures was built on privat land without permission from the owner, and at some point many locals got frustrated, they felt left out, that they had no say in their own communities. The lack of local involvement within the NGOs operating in the communities was perhaps their biggest mistake, the same mistake seems to be made even today.

The tourist industry in Greece was already on their knees long before the refugee crisis peaked, the financial crisis in Greece that started in 2009 had seen to that. When volunteers started to flood towards the Greek Aegean islands in late 2015, the industry in the effected areas got a upswing, hotels, rental car services, restaurants, nightclubs, supermarkets and privat accommodations was in high demand, unfortunately it didn’t last long. When the international press turned off the spotlight, less volunteers came, and when tourists didn’t travel to the Greek Aegean islands in the following summer, bankruptcy and unemployment was inevitable. Many locals lost their jobs, putting food on the table became difficult, people lost their houses and businesses. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs was still packed, not with locals but with international volunteers, this didn’t go unnoticed by locals, and the impression that NGOs spent funds on drinking and partying was created.

This impression was not correct, but nevertheless it damaged the reputation of international grass-root organizations and NGOs, and a general mistrust grew. It became a general perception amongst many locals that these organizations used money intended for aid on themselves, even do these volunteers only used their own hard earned money. Yes there was and still are exemptions, as previously stated, some use a humanitarian pretext to make money to enrich themselves, but this is the exception not the rule.

Skala Sikaminias

The lack of local involvement in the international grass-root organizations and NGOs operating on the islands are still a problem, without this involvement it’s difficult to build bridges and to remove a many times unjustified impression. Instead of paying salaries, rental cars, food and accommodation to international long therm volunteers and coordinators, they could have hired local staff, but perhaps the problem is that mistrust goes both ways, or that international volunteers brings in more funding, social media attention and prestige to the individual organizations. Question is, is the preservation of the organization itself, fat bank account’s, high salaries to their Secretary-Generals and prestige more important than their humanitarian objective, and have they lost their founding vision.

Many of the organizations that was created in the brink of the refugee crisis doesn’t exist anymore, but back in 2015/2016 you could literally find a organization for everything. Several of these organizations are still working on the Greek islands, some still doing an amazing job, while others are raising huge amounts of money by pretending to be involved, when in fact they are doing little to nothing on the ground, floating on their good name and reputation in their home country, filling their bank account from trusting donors. Organizations that has lost track of why they where created in the first place, becoming what they once despised, is dragging the names of good organizations down in the mud, not realizing that they no longer are a part of the solution but a part of the problem.

To be working on the ground today in Greece isn’t easy, neither for volunteers or grass-root organizations, anyone saying otherwise is lying. Volunteers are from time to time targeted by right wing elements, people who don’t want them to help refugees, smashing and burning their cars, beatings and treats. Police is also active, doing their bit to make sure they don’t feel welcome, searching cars, going through their phones looking for incriminating data, ordering people who have done nothing wrong from any public area, just because they feel like it, and that they can just to prove who is in charge.

Organizations also needs to stay in line, one step in the wrong direction and they can be denied access to the camps, any criticism towards the Greek government can automatically result in being denied access, or your project outside the camp suddenly face unannounced inspections that would definitely close the project for good. So organizations and NGOs on the ground mostly remain silent, no matter how difficult the situation is, no criticism is published in fear of being kicked out, in this they are failing the people they should be protecting, people who are suffering every day under inhuman conditions in camps on the Greek islands. Any organization who are denied access to the camp will most likely lose funding, it’s so much easier to ask for money when they are inside, no matter how little they actually do while there. It’s possible for the organization to support and work from outside the camp, but the prestige and funding opportunities are much higher if you are allowed inside, so for some this is a matter of money, and not the humanitarian aspect.

Most grass-root organizations and NGOs still use international volunteers as their main workforce, even do the camps are filled with skilled educated people who are more than capable of doing whatever is needed to improve their own situation. To empower the people who are living in these camps, should have been done a long time ago, in a much bigger scale than what is done today. Sitting around for months and years just waiting, doing nothing, would be devastating for anyone, to be able to occupy your time with something meaningful, feel useful, wanted and necessary would have a positive effect on people’s mental health. So why are hundreds of international volunteers working inside and outside the camps when there are thousands of educated people living there, who are very capable of taking car of themselves, who could have worked to improve their own situation.

Are the NGOs still needed, I would say definitely yes, but I believe that how help and assistance is provided from these organizations can be challenged. If more organizations could put self empowerment higher on there agendas, and use the resources that are already there, instead of international volunteers, they could make a bigger impact on the situation and on the people’s mental health. When it comes to the extensive use of international volunteers as we see today, perhaps it’s time to look at things differently. It’s definitely a “exotic” experience for volunteers to come and participate, it puts things in perspective, but is it in the best interest of the people they are supposed to help. To have short term volunteers, untrained, unskilled trying to help traumatized people living under inhuman conditions isn’t perhaps the ultimate solution. Don’t get me wrong, voluntariness is a beautiful and unselfish act, but there will always be a time and place for everything.

Grass-root organizations who has openly criticized the Greek government’s violations of international laws and human rights, published evidence and assisted international press, has lately been targeted by the Greek government in a broader scale than previously, in an attempt to silence them. Criminal charges against NGOs and volunteers isn’t new in Greece, and recently the Greek government opened a felony case file against 33 members of four NGOs and two “third country nationals” on suspicion of crimes including espionage, violation of state secrets, creation of and participation in a criminal organization and violations of the migration law. Neither the names of the NGOs nor the nationalities of those involved were made public. In addition there other organizations are also of interest, and similar charges can be expected to be raised against them as well. Who these organizations and people are is somewhat unclear, but what we can see is that’s it’s most likely organization’s who has criticized the Greek government over a longer period of time. To try to criminalize these “watchdogs” can be seen as a attempt to discredit them, so that their message is discarded as fake news or propaganda.

Another Rainy Day..

Yesterday the new camp in Kara Tepe, Lesvos, was again hit with heavy rain, and as predicted, it again flooded many areas of the camp. What little people had got soaking wet, mud water mixed with sewage entered the tents, who mostly is raised straight on the ground, some even without flooring. What you see is the result of a few hours of rain, what it will be like when winter really sets in, well you can imagine..

After the previous rainfall five days ago, the Greek government promised to take swift action to fix issues of flooding, so that it wouldn’t happen again. If anything was done, it seemed to have had no effect, yesterday the camp was flooded again.

It’s not as this should come as a big surprise to anyone, the forecast was quite clear, and we all knew this would happen. The area is known to be flooded when the rain starts, and there isn’t put in sufficient drainage to handle the water that will poor down in the coming months. Most of the tents are put directly on the ground, without gravel or pallets, many without any flooring at all.

I wonder what UNHCR and the Red Cross was thinking when they put up summer tents in this area, with no flooring, no insulation and no possibility for heating. This camp is down by the sea, they will have no protection from the elements, people will literally freeze to death when winter rely sets in.

It’s not like UNHCR don’t have the money to provide proper housing for the many thousands who live in this camp, but it seems like they are playing ball with the Greek government, supporting the Politics of the right wing party New Democracy, where the main goal is to make life in camps in Greece as inhuman as humanly possible. What we see today in the new camp on Lesvos is a perfect example on what happens when head of UNHCR in Greece, Philippe Leclerc, “goes to bed” with the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, from New Democracy.

After a month people in the camp still don’t have running water, no showers, insufficient electricity, no drainage, no sewage system, insufficient housing, insufficient food supply, insufficient medical care, the list just goes on. With the tremendous amount of money that has been pored in to Greece, it’s obvious that the money doesn’t end up where it should, someone is “eating the pie”, leaving only the crumbs to vulnerable people in the Greek camps.

We Should Be Very Careful About What We Wish For!

Over the last five years there has been many articles written about the refugee crisis, the suffering of people fleeing war, inhuman living conditions, human rights violations, the abuse of power and a political game played on the backs of vulnerable people. Europe seems not capable, or not willing, to act in accordance to its own laws and regulations, laws that was made while Europe was still in ruins, we seems to have forgotten the words “ never again”, or at least the meaning of them.

The biggest mass movement of people in Europe since the Second World War, and we started to build fences, camps surrounded by barbed wire, where we let children, women and men live under inhuman conditions, neglected by the outside world, the lack of basic needs are extreme, but we don’t seem to care, and we starts to defend the politics that put them there in the first place. We starts to refer to “them” as numbers, statistics, percentage, we divide them into the once we want, and the once we don’t want, based on the geographical location where they where born, their religion, skin color and gender. We dehumanize people, we strip them off all their rights as humans, and we forget that we once said “never again”..

We all seems to be having some kind of amnesia, we have put the same kind of people to rule today’s Europe, that we fought 80 years ago to get rid of. Deep down we all knows what is going on, but for some reason most people choose to look the other way, as long as our way of life isn’t at risk, we won’t rock the boat, hopefully it all will magically go away. What we don’t realize is that one day they might come for us as well, your neighbor, your friends, your family. One day perhaps your life is put in a box that says “unwanted”, by then it would be to late to act. We should be very careful about what we wish for, the violations of human rights and international laws are not “their” problem, it’s also ours, it will eventually effect all of us.

We have all seen pictures from the inhuman camps in Greece, but it seems it’s not enough to make us act, because it’s not personal, it’s just some people, degraded in to numbers and statistics. We don’t realize that they are really people, no different from us, with feelings, dreams for the future, hopes, the need to feel wanted, that they have a value. A mother in the new camp on Lesvos said that she was glad that they moved most unaccompanied minors to the mainland, but we mustn’t forget that there are thousands of children left in this inhuman camp. She said that the only way she could help her own children was to commit suicide, perhaps then they would have a chance of a life in freedom, try to step into her shoes..

Perhaps we should take a closer look on the people living in this camp, get down an personal, perhaps then we will realize that they are just like us, they could easily be our family, friends, neighbor or work college.

The Almousa family of 8 people are from Syria, and lives in a tent in the middle of the new camp in Kara Tepe, six children from the age of 2 to 10 years old. Can you imagine having to live on seven square feet, in a summer tent, without flooring, insulation or heating with your six children, watching them freeze every night. They get some food once a day, but not hardly enough to feed the family, they haven’t had a shower for the last 4 weeks, because there is no running water in the camp. Whenever it rains, mud water are flooding the tent, soaking what little they have, because the tents are put directly on the ground, without pallets or gravel underneath. The is no drainage in the camp, sewage mixes with the rain water contaminates anything that comes in contact with it. And this is the best Europe could offer, blessed by the UNHCR.

Is this an “upgrade” from Moria, I would say quite the opposite, it’s a yet another attempt to treat people seeking protection and refuge in Europe inn the most despicable way, without any concern of their best interest, it’s “Moria the sequel”, a hell in the making, and we just let it happen, again..

The pictures are shared with the approval of the Almosa family, they still live in the worst refugee camp in Europe, these children are suffering because we decided to look the other way..

Is this personal enough to make you care, I doubt it, perhaps when children are freezing to death in this camp you will care, or perhaps not..

What have we become..

Pictures by Yousif Alshewaili

Yet Another Pushback..

Yesterday 07.30 a boat carrying approximately 24 people was pushed back by Greek Coast Guard east of Chios.People onboard contacted Aegean Boat Report, in a desperate attempt to get help, but it was to late.

A Greek coast guard vessel from Chios arrived and picked up the people from the rubber dingy. They where later pushed in to two life rafts, and left drifting, helpless in the sea.

From the pictures and videos they sent to Aegean Boat Report before their phones was taken, we can clearly see the patrol boat from the Greek coast guard, and even the people onboard the boat. There is no doubt who did this to them, another illegal pushback, ordered by the Greek government.

I can’t understand how this can be allowed to continue, the documentation on these violations of international laws and human rights is overwhelming, yet nothing is done. FRONTEX and NATO is watching, doing absolutely nothing to stop this, it’s outrageous!

The faces of the victims have been covered, as I normally do to protect their privacy, but the perpetrators I feel no responsibility for, they are criminals and needs to be stopped. If you recognize this man from the HCG vessel, feel free to report him to the nearest police authority!

A Few Hours Of Rain Was All It Took..

Today the new camp in Kara Tepe, Lesvos, was hit with heavy rain, and as predicted, it flooded many areas of the camp. What little people had got soaking wet, mud water entered the tents, who mostly is raised straight on the ground, some even without flooring. What you see is the result of a few hours of rain, what it will be like when winter really sets in, well you can imagine..

It’s not as this should come as a big surprise to anyone, we all knew this would happen when it started to rain. The area is known to be flooded when the rain starts, and there isn’t put in sufficient drainage to handle the water that will poor down in the coming months. Most of the tents are put directly on the ground, without gravel or pallets, many without any flooring at all.

We have seen government officials bragging about their achievements, putting up this camp in a week. Anyone can put up a camp that looks good on a sunny day, to make it work when the shit really hits the fan, is a totally different ballgame, and this camp failed miserably just after a few hours of rain.

As I have said previously, this camp perhaps looks ok from a distance, but after getting down to the ground, the reality is quite a different story. First this camp is built at the sea front, when winter is coming they will literally freeze to death, and if the cold doesn’t kill them, they will probably drown in mud, or from the polluted ground these tents are built on.

The head of UNHCR on Lesvos, Astrid Castelein, said when asked about the relocation of people in to this new camp, “As long as it’s peaceful, we believe it’s a good move, her on the street it’s a risk for security, for public health, and there is no dignity which we need for everyone”. I wonder what side the UNHCR is really on, when talking about security and dignity, she definitely can’t be referring to the people inside the camp, behind fences and barbed wire, living in the mud on polluted grounds, so who are they really protecting?

There are many organizations working inside this camp, trying to improve a hopeless situation. I’m wondering why these organizations haven’t spoken up on behalf of these vulnerable people, why these organizations stays quiet when there are obviously so many issues with this camp that should have been addressed. When looking through their pages on social media, there is no criticism towards the Greek government, I find it a bit strange.. To look the other way when injustice is done, to keep quiet when people are suffering, dose that make them a part of the solution or a part of the problem..

Is this an “upgrade” from Moria, I would say quite the opposite, it’s a yet another attempt to treat people seeking protection and refuge in Europe inn the most despicable way, without any concern of their best interest, it’s “Moria the sequel”, a hell in the making, and we just let it happen, again..

To see families, children, live under these conditions in Europe in 2020, blessed by the UNHCR, leaves a really bad taste in my mouth, who are they really there to protect..

When You Think You Have Seen It All..

I have over the years seen my fair share of despicable behavior in the Aegean Sea, both from Turkish and Greek coast guard, but today I’m actually lost for words. You take the weakest of the weak, the most vulnerable you can imagine, people totally relying on our protection, and throw them overboard as a bag of rubbish.

A multi-handicapped man was thrown in a life raft outside Lesvos south by the Greek coast guard, he couldn’t even walk, and they needed a crane and a stretcher to lift him out of the life raft. What kind of humans are capable of doing this is beyond me, it’s not human!

A family of 5 was found floating in a life raft outside Bademli, Dikili yesterday 13.40 by Turkish coast guard. They, as many other before them, claims to have been put in the life raft by the Greek coast guard, while trying to cross towards Lesvos. The eldest soon in the family is multi-handicapped, he can’t walk, paralyzed from the waist down. But still he was placed in a life raft by the Greek Coast Guard on Lesvos, they must be really proved off their work, I actually wonder how they can sleep at night.

It seems there is nothing they won’t do to “protect” their borders from these “invaders”, they have hit rock bottom, it’s just not possible to get any lower than this!

As I said, I have seen my fair share of shit, but this really pisses me off! The people responsible for this should be placed behind bars, they are a disgrace for the profession!

If you feel as angry as me about this lowlife behavior, please feel free to call the port police on Mytilíni, Lesvos, and let them know exactly how you feel.

Port police Mytilini: +30 2251 040827

Refugee Camp On Toxic Land, Potentially Life Threatening For Small Children!

The new “temporary” camp in Kara Tepe, Lesvos, is as we all know built partially on an old military firing range. For the government this already restricted area was perfect, it was already fenced in. As all military areas there is a lot of restrictions, the most important ones are the restrictions of movement and the restrictions on taking pictures.

The camp area has been criticized by many, because it’s just not suited to house people, in flimsy tents when the winter is approaching. It’s at the sea, without any protection from heavy winds that usually pounds this area. The area also floods frequently, the tents are built straight on the ground, there is no drainage system. When it’s really starts to rain, and it will, there will be mud everywhere, outside and inside the tents. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s a high possibility, that the very land the camp is built on is toxic.

As previously mentioned, it’s an old military firing range, that has been used by the military for decades. We can assume that the military has used a variety of weapons, that over the years, have packed the ground with hazardous materials. The main concern is the possibility of lead contamination. The presence of lead and lead dust is well documented on such sites as are the extreme danger to health if lead is absorbed by children. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

As we all know, UNHCR are assisting the Greek authorities in resettling displaced families, many of them children, on this new site. They have a special responsibility, due to their involvement, to assure that the area used is suitable and safe to live on. UNHCR have rehoused displaced families on highly toxic land in the past, and should have learned by their previous mistakes.

Following the war in Kosovo in 1999, UNHCR rehoused displaced families on highly toxic land. This is also well documented, particularly so on a website that followed the situation over a number of years. www.toxicwastekills.com It resulted in childrens’ blood lead levels higher than instruments could measure. There is no level of lead so low that children’s health will not be damaged. Very young children often absorb it through licking lead paint etc as they find it pleasant. This is also well documented. Pregnant women can transfer absorbed lead to foetuses through the placenta. It attacks all organs of the body but also causes irreversible brain damage. Now UNHCR is helping to place men, women and children on an old military firing range near Kara Tepe on Lesvos. This could be yet another deadly mistake in the making.

Due to the fact that it took only 5 days to put up this camp, after the fire in Moria, it’s highly unlikely that any proper survey has been taken. This new site requires urgent toxicity checking by independent experts to reveal whether lead is present on the new site, which could indicate an evacuation might be necessary to protect the lives of vulnerable children. The concern has already been addressed by email to Astrid Castelein, head of the UNHCR sub office on Lesvos, and the main UNHCR office in Greece, so far without any reply.

Some areas in the camp has been leveled out by bulldozers, in other areas soil from the leveled areas has been reused as landfill. By doing so, things that has been buried in the ground for decades has resurfaced, possibly making the situation even worse. Residents in the camp have found remains of ammunition casings and grenades around the tents, and military personnel have been observed using metal detectors in the outskirts of the camp. To see small children who have fled war, play with used ammunition in a European refugee camp, should raise some questions.

If this isn’t enough, a proposal to create a new “reception and identification centre” structure with a capacity of 2,500 people, and a planned 500 employees overall, in the area of the former shooting range of Kamenos Dasos (Camlik) in central Lesvos seems to have been passed, as the majority of Mytilene municipal authority confirmed. These areas would never have been approved to build houses, schools or kindergartens, but seems to be more than good enough for these children..

https://www.mayoclinic.org/…/symptoms-causes/syc-20354717

Greek police accuse 33 people of helping migrant smuggling

The Greek government, the same government that is practicing illegal pushbacks on an industrial scale, putting families and children in inflatable life rafts, drifting in the Aegean Sea, in direct violation of international laws and human rights, are once again targeting non-government organizations and volunteers.

Greek authorities have prepared a case file against 33 foreign nationals, members of four NGOs dealing with refugee issues on the island of Lesvos. The case file against the specific NGOs reportedly includes the offenses of forming and joining a criminal organization, espionage, violation of state secrets, as well as human trafficking.

We have seen this same approach several times before, trying to criminalize NGOs, aid workers and those who dare stand up against the injustice done by this disgraceful government. Make no mistake, they are trying to scare people to silence, anyone standing up against and highlighting their inhuman treatment of vulnerable people seeking safety, is a treat, and needs to be eliminated.

Organizations on the ground might be scared to report on how bad the situation really is, to speak up, in fear of being kicked out of the camp they work in, or licenses revoked, so they stay quiet, fall in line and keep their mouths shut. By being quiet, they fail the very people they came to help and protect, and are no longer a part of the solution, but a part of the problem. Organizations working inside the new camp on Lesvos is strangely quiet, they should have been screaming from the rooftops, but they stay quiet. Knowing how the conditions are in this camp and many others, proves my point perfectly.

Aegean Boat Report will not be intimidated to keep quiet, or look the other way when vulnerable people’s rights are being violated, and will continue to put the spotlight towards injustice. I will not go quite into the Night!

New Arrivals On Chios

A group of people who arrived in Karfas, Chios south east this morning, contacted Aegean Boat Report, asking for assistance. They where afraid that if police found them, they would send them back to Turkey.

In cooperation with the new arrivals, Aegean Boat Report managed to get documentation by video and pictures, that clearly stated that they where in fact on Chios, and also of the people involved. Information received was that there were 25 people in the group that arrived.

ABR also contacted the local newspaper Astraparis, to try to document their arrival on the island, so that they didn’t end up in a life raft in the Aegean Sea. Journalists and associates from Astraparis did not observe the new arrivals in the area, it’s highly likely that police had already picked them up. The only sign of their arrival, was the rubber boat found on the shores of Karfas.

Port police on Chios was not willing to give any information on this incident, but after the local newspaper had published the story, with pictures, there was an official statement from The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, confirming that 16 people had been found and taken to the quarantine site in Lefkonia. Where the remaining 9 people is is difficult to say, but perhaps information from the arrivals wasn’t accurate regarding the number.

If this statement from the minister had been given, if there was nothing published in the media, is difficult to say, but very questionable. In previous cases where people have arrived on the islands, with no press coverage to make local awareness, arrivals seems to have magically disappeared, only to find themselves floating in the Aegean Sea.

A previous incident of arrivals on Chios was only two days ago, when 10 people arrived in the evening in Agia Ermioni. There are several local witnesses, but port police say there was no arrivals, and basically saying that the locals are lying. On Thursday morning 06.00 Turkish coast guard picked up 10 people outside Cèsme, Turkey, that claimed to have been on Chios, only to be forced back in the sea by the Greek Coast Guard. But perhaps all this is only a coincidence…

Aegean Boat Report believe that without witnesses and documentation, people arriving on the Greek Aegean islands, will become victims of illegal immediate deportation, without being able to apply for asylum, and that this common practice is implemented after a direct order from the Greek right wing government.

Aegean Boat Report will, when information is available on new arrivals, try to involve press and locals, to make awareness. And by doing so, try to force local authorities to stop putting people’s life at risk. It will be difficult to commit a crime, while people are watching, taking pictures, and denying it afterwards.

We must find a way to stop this illegal inhuman practices, once and for all!!!

Pictures of the boat at the shore is by Astraparis.

Moria “The Sequel”

This new “temporary” camp that is sat up in Kara Tepe for the refugees after the fire in Moria, might look clean and good from a distance, but when you get a closer look, everything isn’t as it seems, in many aspects.

After the fire in Moria there has been a desperate need of housing for the thousands of people left homeless, families living in the streets, car parks and in the hills in the surrounding areas. To call the shacks that they lived in in the jungle in Moria for a home, is by any standard outrageous, but it was all they had. Question is, is this new camp an “upgrade” from what they had, or is this a new “hell” in the making, where limitation of movement is the main purpose.

Greek authorities has been wanting to make closed camps for a long time, prisons, where they can lock up everyone, also families and children, control their movements, limit their access to basic needs, advocacy, health care, journalists, in the pretext of “protecting” them, and only thinking of their best interests. It remains to be seen if people can move freely in and out of this new camp, go for a walk, go shopping, whenever they feel like it, like you and me, without being stopped by a fence with barbed wire, I highly doubt it.

Many people didn’t want to go in to this new camp, they where afraid for what this camp represents, and how it would affect their lives. Greek government first tried the friendly approach, asking people to “move in” to their new “homes”, that their everyday needs would be cared for and it would be a safe and good place to live. When that didn’t work they started handing out flyers, and sending out text messages to people in the area, saying that they where the only one they could trust, an outrageous statement, basically saying organizations, NGOs, volunteers, journalists etc is just using you.

“Dear asylum seeker, if you are in Lesvos, the only safe place for you and your family is in the new camp. There, the Greek State guarantees your safety and provides you with electricity, water, medical care, wifi etc. Inform only from the official authorities. Do not trust anyone else, they are using you.”

When this also failed they used something they called “friendly force”, it’s a contradiction in terms, it’s actually not possible to be considered friendly and use force at the same time. They made corridors in the streets where people lived, blocking off the street with police buses in both ends, and moved in a massive police force to “persuade” people to move. Riot police with shields, batons and guns, they didn’t stand a chance, they had no option, they had to obey. To make it difficult to document everything, they restricted journalists from entering the area, there was no “freedom of the press”, I wonder what they were afraid of..

To put the last “nail in the coffin”, they pointed out that only people that was living inside the new camp would be able to get their asylum cases processed, and if that wasn’t enough, they prohibited all organizations to give out food outside the camp, I think everyone gets the picture.

In only five days, the Greek government, in cooperation with UNHCR, managed to find thousands of tents, toilets, and beds, funds to make this massive camp, it’s seems like a “miracle”. For the last five years, they haven’t been able to give proper housing, in Moria, inn the jungle, people had to make shacks out of tarpaulin and garbage, and all of a sudden they magically comes up with this, how could that possibly be? They obviously had these tents stored somewhere, why didn’t they give them to people who desperately needed them before, why let people suffer unnecessary for five years, when this was possible in only five days.

As I said previously, this camp looks ok from a distance, but after getting down to the ground, the reality is quite a different story. First this camp is built at the sea front, when winter is coming they will literally freeze to death, and if the cold doesn’t kill them, they will probably drown in mud, or from the polluted ground these tents are built on. The area is known to be flooded when the rain starts, and there isn’t put in sufficient drainage to handle the water that will poor down in the coming months. Most of the tents are put directly on the ground, without gravel or pallets, many without any flooring at all. The camp is built on an old military shooting range, the ground is literally packed with bullets, grenade fragments and god knows what else the military have used in the area over the years. Military personnel have walked around with metal detectors, picking up whatever they could find, but that the ground is polluted, there is no question about. And in this area you would let your kids live and play, I highly doubt it, but for these children, it’s probably ok right..

In the pictures we can see some huge tents in a row, the inside they didn’t show off.. These huge tents is the housing for single men, around 200 men in bunk beds in each tent, literally sleeping and living on top of each other. They say that the tents will be locked up at night, if this is correct, well, I got the feeling of a barrack from a consecration camp when I saw the pictures, it’s just devastating.

The head of UNHCR on Lesvos, Astrid Castelein, said when asked about the relocation of people in to this new camp, “As long as it’s peaceful, we believe it’s a good move, her on the street it’s a risk for security, for public health, and there is no dignity which we need for everyone”. I wonder what side the UNHCR is really on, when talking about security and dignity, she definitely can’t be referring to the people inside the camp, behind fences and barbed wire, living in the mud on polluted grounds, so who are they really protecting?

It didn’t take UNHRC long to go out on social media and ask for more money to fund their “efforts” on Lesvos, Philippe Leclerc, the Greek representative of the UNHCR didn’t waist any time when the opportunity arose to get his hands on more money, but didn’t lift a finger when 20.000 people was freezing in Moria last winter, that’s plain and simple hypocritical. We have to be honest, most of the support towards refugees over the last five years in Greece has been from independent organizations and NGOs, and NOT from UNHCR, so to have the nerve to go out and ask people to give them more money, is just despicable!

The area this camp is built on is as I said military grounds, and most military areas has a photo prohibition, also this area. So that means, that journalists and people in general will have restricted access to the area, and documenting by video and pictures the situation inside the camp, even from the outside, can be regarded as criminal, awfully convenient…

What will happen with the people in this camp is difficult to predict, but the fact that they will be behind double fencing and barbed wire, locked behind a gate with access control and video surveillance, guarded by a massive police force, smells more of a prison than a refugee camp. They say this camp is a “temporary”, but when they have signed a lease for the next five years, to the astronomic price of 2.9 million Euros, enough to by the area there times over, it’s perhaps more permanent than they make it out to be.

Is this an “upgrade” from Moria, I would say quite the opposite, it’s a yet another attempt to treat people seeking protection and refuge in Europe inn the most despicable way, without any concern of their best interest, it’s “Moria the sequel”, a hell in the making, and we just let it happen, again..