The situation for refugees on the island of Lesvos is getting much worse than reported in our previous blogs. Greece and Europe are now at a major turning point in Europe’s migration policy. It is a deeply troubling moment because the European governments are challenging the core values and principles of international treaties that have shaped our societies since World War Two. Greece is at the forefront of these developments. It is in the process of implementing an inhumane policy, many argue a racist policy – denying asylum seekers and refugees protection. The Greek law of 1st June 2020 terminates the provision of shelter for 11,237 refugees and beneficiaries via the ESTIA housing program. If that were not enough to deal with, the fires at Moria camp also rendered up to 13,000 refugees homeless.
We are now witnessing first-hand an unprecedented level of vulnerability and destitution among refugee families on Lesvos. Closing our eyes to the inhumanity of the situation is not an option. It is all too rare to read the words or hear the voices of refugees themselves, such as Sara who sent this from Lesvos today.
“I am Sara. I came to Greece with my mother and my siblings. I am seventeen years old but in two or three months I will be eighteen years old. I have two sisters (aged 14 and 15) and two brothers (aged 12 and 8). We have been living on the island of Lesvos for about eleven months.
Our father was not a good person. He beat my mother every day and he beat me every time I said something. We fled Afghanistan and went to Iran. But our father chased us. He told us he would kill our mother and take us back home. We got so scared we fled from Iran to Turkey. In Turkey, the police arrested us because we did not have identification documents. They took us to prison. In prison, they beat me and my sisters and they separated my brother from us. We did not see each other for several weeks. When we were released, we found out that my brother had been taken to another prison. We found him there. We slept by the gates there for several days and nights until they released my brother.
After that we slept on the beach for a few months because we did not have any documents or any money. We could not find a place to live. My mother called my grandfather in Iran. He told us that our father had come to Turkey looking for us. My grandfather borrowed money and sent it to us. That is how we managed to get to Greece. We were relieved. On the first day they told us they would support us and that they would not let us be bothered anymore by our father and that they would protect us.
We lived in Moria camp for about ten months. It was not a safe place. Even so, I taught at a nursery school there. I was an English teacher teaching young children basic English. English and Greek is what they mainly taught at Moria. They gave us an ID straight away, without even conducting an interview which is unusual but we had a strong asylum case.
But then a couple of months ago after the new law came in, they told us to leave the camp and that our money would be cut.
My mother had a nervous breakdown. Her heart valve is open and she sometimes falls to the ground. Half of her body becomes numb. One of her eyes is blind. And she has a thyroid problem. She cannot walk properly. She is really sick. My little sister has tonsilitis and cannot breathe at night. My little brother has a severe allergy and his nose is always full of catarrh and sometimes he has bad nose bleeds. I am finding it hard to cope with all these things.
I have asked for help but they say they can do nothing for us. They say we must leave the camp and find a home even though we have no money. How can we do that?
One day our neighbour, in Moria, who was a nasty man، argued with me and beat me, pulled my hair and banged my head against the wall, and then hit my mother and then my sister, but the police did nothing, they laughed at me and insulted me. Two days later, when my whole body was in pain, I went to the doctor and they asked about it and said that you should leave Moria camp as you are vulnerable.
We were taken to the Kara Tepe camp and we have been here for a couple of months. I kept going to Moria from Kara Tepe to continue to teach at nursery school. But now Moria has burnt down and the school has burnt down and I am at home.
The officials tell us “you have an ID and now you have to leave the camp” but I do not know where we should go because we have no place to go.
How can I work for five other people in my family in this situation because my mother cannot work? I am alone. I do not know what to do.
I want to study. I have taught myself English. I want to study. I would like to be an architect. That is my dream, but who will work if I do not? How can I study? How will my family survive?”
Pikpa refugee camp on Lesvos, an independently run safe place, offers shelter to some of the most vulnerable refugees but they are struggling to help everyone as they reply on volunteers and donations. Please consider donating here to support vulnerable families like Sara’s.