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..