We are astonished to have been the focus of an unprovoked and deliberately misleading attack on our organisation.
Aegean Boat Report, in common with all aid organisations working to help the Greek government and the EU with the refugee response in Greece, strongly opposes people smuggling between Turkey and Greece.
We are not, never have been and never will be part of any smuggling network and we do not work, have never worked, and will never work with any person or people smuggling people on any route, in any part of the world.
We operate a public service, accessible to all, which locates men, women and children who arrive on the Greek islands, in part because the Greek government consistently fails to perform this basic function.
Once they are located, we ensure that they are taken to camps where they can enter the proper legal processes.
We are forced to do this because the men, women and children travelling to the EU are well aware by now that the Greek government practices illegal pushbacks, and if we did not help to ensure that they were found, they would attempt to stay in hiding on arrival. This would be the worst of all possible outcomes for every person including the citizens of Greece and wider EU.
We do not deliver aid to those people, though the Minister should be pleased that some organisations do this, because without their work, the failures of his own Ministry would have caused hundreds more deaths than have taken place so far, and seen many men, women and children wandering Lesvos and other Eastern Aegean islands searching for shelter.
We must request the Minister ceases his baseless allegations, and advise him that if he wishes to allege we have acted illegally or improperly he must produce something more than a small number of refugees saying that smugglers in Turkey know the name ‘Aegean Boat Report’ and tell them if they attempt to contact us they will be given dry clothing and a bottle of water.
We have broken no law, we do not work with anyone who does, and it is inexplicable that a Minister of the Greek government would seek to launch such a wild attack on a small organisation trying to ensure that people forced by Greek and EU policy to take dangerous journeys presided over by criminals do not die and are not lost to the system.
Far from Aegean Boat Report and other NGOs, the major factor assisting smugglers and ensuring they profit from the suffering of refugees is the Greek government and EU’s refusal to provide safe routes for people to travel and apply for asylum, which is their legal right.
None of the people arriving on the Greek islands are ‘illegal immigrants’. They are asylum seekers exercising their fundamental human rights.
The Greek state may of course decide whether to grant asylum to Somalians, whose country is a failed state and which has been in a state of war for more than 30 years.
And we hope the Greek government will in fact focus its attention on that decision, instead of continuing its ill-researched and misleading attacks on aid organisations working to help people survive, and help the Greek state.
In this way, we believe it and the EU will be able to respond to the situation on its borders in a manner befitting civilised actors in the modern world.
‘here is how we interact with new arrivals into Greece’
To fundraise in these difficult times isn’t the easiest thing I have done, especially since the Aegean Boat Report don’t provide aid like food, clothes, medical, and hygiene, but only information.
Aegean Boat Report have provided free information for everyone to use for many years, documenting the ongoing situation in the Aegean Sea, in a time when verified Information is increasingly difficult to come by. Continuously trying to put the spotlight on how people have been treated, abuse and violations by government’s, have made headlines, not only in Europe but also internationally.
By operating as a “watchdog”, a “whistler”, openly criticizing and revealing violations done towards vulnerable people, especially by the Greek government, haven’t made me many friends, threats towards me and my family isn’t unusual. There has been many attempts to try to silence me, from right wing extremists groups but also from the Greek government. The attempt to criminals and discredit people and organizations that openly criticize the Greek government violations of international laws and human rights is common, to target what I do by saying it’s propaganda, I’m an enemy of the state, human trafficker working with the mafia and a Turkish spy is frequently used in the Greek press.
Information provided by Aegean Boat Report is used by volunteers, organizations, researchers and journalists, many actually benefit from the work that is published on a daily basis, also financially. For any organization media attention towards the area they work in would be beneficiary, and lead to more volunteers and funding. When an organization, who has tirelessly worked to provide more media attention, ask for support, I’m often faced with the question “ why do you ask for funding, you just gather information, you don’t do anything on the ground, you don’t help anyone”, it’s just frustrating, especially when coming from people who actually benefits from the work you do.
Everything is great, everyone is happy because they can freely use the fruits of your labor, until the time you ask for help, then they take a step back, turn around and walks away. Some even starts to ask questions on your motives to fundraise, if you are in this form the money.. if anyone had known the effort that has been put in to this over the years, the sacrifices, they would be shocked. Yes, even do everything I provided is free of charge, what I do actually costs money, any organization need funds to be able to work, just not Aegean Boat Report because it basically don’t do anything.. As I mentioned previously, it’s just frustrating..
What Aegean Boat Report stand for and what it dose is extremely well documented, not only on social media platforms like Facebook but also in the international press. To question my dedication and motives actually offends me, and I take it very personal! Anyone working in this field knows what it takes to stand in this over time, the sacrifices made, the dedication is many times difficult to carry.
I’m truly sorry that I can’t do everything on my own without asking for help, and that I need to to provide for my family. I’m sorry that I try to fundraise to keep this organization going, when so many other organizations actually needs the money more than I do, because they do, no question about it! I’m not rich, I work hard to be able to put food on the table, as everyone else, and if I’m faced with the option to continue and not be able to provide for my family, I would close down ABR in a heartbeat, because family always comes first in my book.
To support my work with the Aegean Boat Report please use the link below, and for those of you who have supported me, I’m truly grateful, thank you!
I will continue as long as it’s possible, but I really could need your support!
A little boy, age 6, drowned on the shores of Samos, when he and his father tried to reach safety in Europe. Today the 25 year old father was arrested on suspicion of endangering a person’s life that lead to death, a crime that could carry a penalty, if found guilty, of up to 10 years in prison.
What happened on Samos on Saturday night is a tragedy not only for his family, but also for Europe. We let yet another child drown on our watch while we are occupied building walls and barbed wire fences, to keep everyone who “don’t belong her” out.. at what point did we start to turn our backs towards families, children asking for help, what made us this cold..
It’s outrageous that a grieving father is being punished for trying to seek safety for himself and his child, we would have done the same if we had walked in their shoes, but this doesn’t concern us dose it, it’s not our “kind”, so we just look the other way and move on as if nothing has happened, it’s not about us, or is it..
The screams of desperation and horror in the night is difficult to describe, if you haven’t hear it yourself, I have, not only this time but many times before, when I close my eyes at night I still hear them, I can live with that, because it’s not about me, it’s about “them”.. “them” is not my family, it’s nobody I know or even anyone I have ever seen before, so why would I care, it’s not “us”, it’s only “them” right..
Europe have for a long time tried to criminalize rescue workers and organizations who’s only goal is to help people seeking protection in Europe, now we are also criminalizing the people who are seeking safety..
What more can we take from these people, who have lost so much already, and still call ourselves humans..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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!
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..
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.
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..