Filippiada camp

Reception Conditions

Filippiada camp was established in the former “Petropoulaki” army camp in Epirus. It is located in a mountainous area and is about 4km distance from the same named village. The nearest towns are Arta (13,7km) and Ioannina (58,2km). The camp is situated on a large gravel-covered area. The back of the camp faces a dense forest.

The Greek Army, the Ministry of Migration Policy and RIS are responsible for camp management. Since 15 February 2018, Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB) has been responsible for site management support.[1] EODY staff provides primary health care. A program run by ARSIS providing assistance to vulnerable refugees (children and victims of GBV) ended in December 2018.[2] Until then, the organization in co-operation with EODY was managing referrals of people with special needs.[3]

Filippiada opened on 18 March 2016, it had a reported official capacity of 700 and it was consisted of 83 tents.[4] In November 2016, tents were replaced with prefabs.[5] The number of residents did not exceed 200 to 300 persons until July 2018[6] when the Ministry of Migration Policy extended the site and placed additional prefabs in order to host another 100 to 200 persons[7] transferred from Samos and other Aegean islands.[8] In May 2019, two dozens of single women from African origin were reportedly transferred to the site as well as a dozen of Farsi-speaking families.

In mid-October 2018, the camp had a reported official capacity of 700 and 487 residents.[9] The majority of residents during that period were children (53 %). At the end of January 2019, the number of residents reached 570 following transfers from the islands.[10]

Refugees speaking to RSA were worried about access to medical assistance as among the camps residents were vulnerable persons such as pregnant women young children, persons with chronic conditions and victims of torture. Those interviewed were concerned about the limitations in the services provided by EODY and the visiting army doctor including the lack of psychologist and gynaecologist in the camp. They stated, that by the end of 2018 until today there were weeks where only nurses were present and no doctor was visiting. Residents told RSA that a paediatrician was visiting the camp once a week.

Limited interpretation was another cause of worry. At the time of RSA’s initial research in August 2018, there was only an Arab interpreter and no interpreter for Farsi in the camp. Refugees needing hospital or specialized treatment had to travel to Arta or Ioannina and to buy medicines they had to go to a pharmacy located 4km away in Filippiada village. They were also very worried about the time that an ambulance would take to come to the camp in emergency cases. Transport costs to access health care, and other services found only in Athens and Thessaloniki (i.e. for victims of torture) added to their concerns. / ASB was providing for free transfers to Ioannina and Arta regularly on specific days.[11]

“When my son had to be transferred to hospital for his infection, the ambulance took him to Arta. There was no dermatologist that day. We were then told we had to go back on our own and find our way to Ioannina hospital. What will happen if one of us has an emergency case?”

Baha R.* (40)[12] from Iran, Filippiada camp
She escaped with her husband Amir K.* (50), who is a victim of torture and their two children. They arrived in Filippiada camp from Vaghiochori.

“My husband sleeps at the door of our container to protect us. Some women here lost their babies and had miscarriages from the stress and fear. I am lucky my baby was born healthy. I was scared because we are far from the hospital. I got asthma from the life in a container. Actually, this is not a life… . We don’t have a today and there is no hope for a tomorrow.”

Parwana K.* (38)[13] from Afghanistan, recognized refugee, Filippiada camp
She fled with her husband Mohammad L.* (40) and their three children. They arrived from Lesvos island and left Greece by the end of 2018.

Those interviewed spoke about their worry about lack of security in the camp and fights breaking between refugees and said there were problems with the weak electricity.

“Recently there was a big fight with knives. How should we protect them here? During the fight we escaped outside of the camp and hugged our children tight until it was over. That night we slept outside of the camp from fear. They built a playground for the children now inside the camp, but we are scared to go there or to let our children go there. The camp is very dark during the night. … I just tell you, I have daughters and we cannot go out of the container. There is a lot screaming and other scary noises. There are a lot of single men.”

Fachnaz K.* (30)[14] from Syria, Filippiada camp
She escaped from Allepo with her husband Mezgid M.* (35) and their four children. They arrived from Diavata camp after crossing the land border.

In September 2016, local parents protested about the enrolment of refugee children in the village school.[15] As of September 2018 less than 60% of children living the camp attended formal education.[16] As of October 2018, there were no interpretation services available for the school and no vocational training for adults in the site.[17]

Selected interviews

Baha R.* (40) and her husband Amir K.* (50)[18] escaped from Iran with their son aged 16 and daughter aged 11. Amir is reportedly a victim of torture. He suffers from mental health issues and other health problems. Both children also have health problems. The family arrived from the land border with Serbia and got sent first from Diavata to Vaghiochori and from there to Filippiada camp. They had been in Greece for a month when they spoke to RSA at the end of last August.

Baha said: “In Diavata they told us to go to Vaghiochori camp on our own. For two nights, we slept on the floor of a stone building in Diavata. There were fights in the food lines and the toilets. Our children suffered from vomiting as a result of bad food and developed skin allergies. We couldn’t get the Cash-card and had no money. We spent almost our last money to go to Vaghiochori.

In Vaghiochori, we stayed for three weeks in a tent. Our son got sick there. He had a microbic skin infection all over his body and was transferred to the hospital. We felt we were in the end of the world. I was very scared because of the psychology of my husband and my children’s health. The bus to Thessaloniki was running once a day. One day they told us we should go to Filippiada camp on our own. We were two families, but they gave us money just for two tickets.

We have been in Filippiada for some days now. We share one container with another family. We have big problems with the doctors here. There is no Farsi interpreter – just one for Arabic. When I try to tell them our problems, they just laugh… My children still have a skin infection. I went four times to ask for medical assistance and I never got medicines… .

We feel abandoned and unsafe here. We get sick but also there are fights even with knives. We escaped from violence. My husband was tortured in Iran. He had already six operations in his eyes. He needs very specific eye drops. The doctor said we have to buy them ourselves. We don’t know even which eye drops he has to take. In Iran, the doctors had first told him he needed eye prosthesis, but then his condition improved… . Now his eye is getting worse again.

… When my son had to be transferred to hospital for his infection, the ambulance took him to Arta. There was no dermatologist that day. We were then told we had to go back on our own and find our way to Ioannina hospital. … We are spending nearly all our money for medicines and transport to the hospitals. What will happen if one of us has an emergency case? …”

Eventually the family’s asylum interview was scheduled for October 2019. In a phone call in early 2019, Baha said: “… We have a huge problem that we don’t have enough money… . We have not bought any new clothes since we arrived. I feel ashamed for my children. At the end of the month, we always stay hungry for a week. With 400 Euros we cannot manage our lives. …

I am the one in the family who has to be strong and take care of all the others. But I suffer also and sometimes I ask myself how long will I be able to cope and not break down? My daughter, my son my husband… all are sick. I fear for (their health problems) and the distance to (the hospital). We applied for a house a month ago. We asked them to send us to a big city where my husband can find appropriate care. But we have nothing in our hand to prove he is a victim of torture.”

Since the family arrived in Greece, Amir has not been referred to any specialised organisation for the rehabilitation and certification of torture victims. He was told at an early point, that there are only such services in Athens, but the family at that time was new in Greece and was scared to go to the capital as they had nowhere to stay and no assistance.

Fachnaz K.* (30) and her husband Mezgid M.* (35)[19] escaped from Allepo in Syria with their four children aged 10, 8, 6 and 4. They arrived in Greece through Evros in April 2018 and spent two months in a tent in Diavata camp before being transferred to Filippiada.

Fachnaz described their difficult experiences to at the end of August 2018: “We arrived two months and ten days ago in Greece. We got arrested and detained for three days. Upon release, we received a paper valid for 6 months. We went to Thessaloniki and from there to Diavata camp. We bought a small tent and stayed there for two months with non-stop strong rainfalls. We were getting wet, getting wet, getting wet. All our children were sick.

We have been in Filippiada for three months. We are waiting for our asylum interview in Thessaloniki. Everyone has to pay for his/her transport to the Asylum Service for the day of the interview. The tickets cost 55 Euro per person. For one family who gets 500 Euro in one month, this is really a lot. In May 2018, we got our Cash-card. It is not enough for my family. We were without cash for three months in Diavata.

I have mental health problems, but there is no psychologist here. Also, the doctor here is not helping us. My husband was tortured in Syria. I saw beheaded persons and people torn into pieces in Aleppo. Our biggest problem here are the doctors at the moment. … (Also) we cannot give anything to our children. They will go to school after the summer. They have nothing to do since we are here, just a few lessons inside the camp. But there is no possibility for them to see something else than containers and trees.

Recently there was a big fight with knives. How should we protect them here? During the fight we escaped outside of the camp and hugged our children tight until it was over. That night we slept outside of the camp from fear. They built a playground for the children now inside the camp, but we are scared to go there or to let our children go there. The camp is very dark during the night.

We are living far from everything now. We live and we are not. There is the forest and mountains around us. The ambulance needs two hours to come here. I cannot imagine my future anymore. I just feel stress… .”

Footnotes

  1. The ASB within the program is tasked: SMS activities, ensuring protection and support of vulnerable groups and offering non-formal education opportunities. Source: http://asb.gr/asb-assumes-the-site-management-support-role-in-epirus-region/ (last visited: 19 April 2019)The contract was renewed in March 2019. Source:http://asb.gr/asb-signs-agreement-with-iom/ (last visited: 19 April 2019)
  2. The program had started in September 2017 with a focus on unaccompanied minors and separated children as well as other children. They were offering a child-friendly space with different activities. Furthermore they were working on the prevention of GBV and awareness raising and supported individual cases with psycho-social and legal services. Source: http://arsis.gr/drasis-ke-ipiresies/paremvasis-stous-katavlismous/sti-voria-ellada/ (last visited: 19 April 2019)Before, ARSIS had been present for psycho-social support since 1.6.2016-31.12.2017 in co-operation with former site manager OXFAM and in 2018 in co-operation with ASB.Source: http://www.arsis.gr/en/emergency-support-to-refugees-and-migrants-in-greece-en/ (last visited: 19 April 2019)
  3. Source: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/67420 (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  4. Source: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/47291 (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  5. Source: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/52748 (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  6. Source: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/67419.pdf (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  7. Source: https://www.atpreveza.gr/epikairothta/28160-megalonei-i-domi-filoksenias-prosfygon-sti-filippiada-gia-na-dexthei-kosmo-apo-tin-voreia-ellada (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  8. Source: http://asb.gr/filipiada-prosfyges-kai-metanastes-samo-ftanoun-egkatastaseis-filoxenias/ (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  9. Source: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/67419.pdf (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  10. Source: http://www.geetha.mil.gr/media/refugees/2019/gr/20190125.pdf (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  11. Tickets with the public buses to Ioannina cost around 7 Euro and to Arta 1,50 Euro oneway Tickets to Thessaloniki and Athens by public bus are one-way currently 34,30 and 36 Euro respectively.
  12. Interviewed on 30th August near Filippiada site and on 2nd March 2019 by telephone.
  13. Interviewed on 28th August infront of Diavata site.
  14. Interviewed on 30th August near Filippiada site and on 1st March 2019 by telephone.
  15. Source: https://www.iefimerida.gr/news/327067/sti-filippiada-70-prosfygopoyla-den-mporoyn-na-pane-akoma-sholeio (last visited: 08 May 2019)In September 2016 parents of Greek kids in the school of Filippiada protested against the inclusion of refugee kids. Sources:https://left.gr/news/i-apantisi-tis-6is-yg-perifereias-sti-ratsistiki-anakoinosi-goneon-toy-2oy-dimotikoy (last visited: 08 May 2019);https://left.gr/news/aroma-ratsismoy-kai-sti-filippiada-goneis-de-theloyn-ta-prosfygopoyla-sto-sholeio (last visited: 08 May 2019);https://www.liberal.gr/arthro/95620/epikairotita/2016/anastelletai-i-foitisi-prosfugopoulon-stin-filippiada-logo-krousmaton-ipatitidas-a.html (last visited: 08 May 2019);https://www.efsyn.gr/ellada/koinonia/105820_sholeio-kai-sti-filippiada-gia-ta-prosfygopoyla (last visited 19.04.19):23:11.2016: Three kids were found to have Hepatitis, which halted school enrolment program. https://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2016/11/23/filippiada-hepatitis-in-3-refugee-children-halts-school-enrollment-program/ (last visited: 08 May 2019);70 kids remain without school for 4 months since 22 November 2016 /until March 2017). Source:http://www.alterthess.gr/content/mataia-perimenoyn-epi-4-mines-70-prosfygopoyla-na-pane-sholeio-sti-filippiada-logo (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  16. Source: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/66038 (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  17. Source: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/67419 (last visited: 08 May 2019)
  18. Interviewed on 30th August 2018 near Filippiada camp and on 2nd March 2019 by telephone.
  19. Interviewed on 30th August 2018 near Filippiada camp and on 1st March 2019 by telephone.