Surviving in Moria

The situation in the Aegean hotspots remains very critical despite persistent calls from NGOs and international organizations to end the entrapment of refugees on the islands, particularly in view of winter and very bad weather conditions. Despite the fact that the Greek authorities continue the nearly daily transfers of refugees to the mainland, it appears that there is no particular care for those refugees who continue to live in tents in the informal camp next to Moria hotspot. In order to deal with such adverse conditions, refugees try to survive on their own by improvising.

 A characteristic picture that one sees when visiting the ‘olive grove’ informal camp is of refugees carrying wooden pallets and cardboard so as to protect their tents from the rain and the cold. The camp is situated next to Moria hotspot. Refugees themselves call this informal settlement ‘jungle’ in order to describe the place and the conditions they are forced to live in.  At present, around 1,500 people live in this camp.[1]

The refugees dig large ditches around their tents in order to stop rain water flooding them. Some actually collect wood and tarpaulin so they make stronger sheds. In the upper part of the ‘olive grove’ where large families from Afghanistan live, one often meets men trying to build their temporary shelter by using stakes for the foundation.

Despite their efforts, heavy rain in recent days worsened even further the conditions and the tents have flooded. One cannot but question how the residents in this camp will survive when the weather gets worse.

As a result of the insufficient hygiene facilities in the camp, refugees built homemade showers cubicles between their tents and trees. «In the few showers that exist, we wait for hours and the water is always cold. We need to bathe our children, but we cannot do it with cold water as they always get sick after that», says Hunun, a female refugee from Afghanistan. Hunun lives in the ‘olive grove’ with her family.  Τhe fact that this informal settlement appears to become permanent has forced refugees to seek solutions in order to cope with their everyday needs.

Under these conditions, insecurity pervades especially when it gets darker. «Exposed to nature and weather conditions, refugees even ask whether there are wolves in the area. During the night, they try not to go to the toilet as they are very scared.  Women go only with their husbands», notes Efi Latsoudi, social scientist of Refugee Support Aegean.

One of the most important problems is the lack of doctors in the KEELPNO surgery.[2] Hunun describes the difficulties that her daughters face: «Whenever I go with my elder daughter to see the doctor, he/she tells me that she should drink two liters of water a day in order to get better.  She has not been out of our tent for days and she does not feel very well. My younger daughter was hospitalized. She has lost a lot of weight and has an iron deficiency. The doctor prescribed a special diet, but I cannot provide this to her as I do not have the money to find it and pay for it ».

Azat is from Afghanistan and suffers from severe depression, PTSD and has already made a suicide attempt. He struggles to understand the thinking behind the transfers from the islands to the mainland. «Some leave immediately and some are left behind», he says and explains that he feels deprived because of the absence of a fair system. «You must have a lot of luck for your problems to be registered immediately. We all have problems but in order to leave from this island-prison they must consider you as very ill. Even if you are not ill when you arrive, after few months here you will become ill for sure. After a year and a half here, I do not recognize myself any longer».

As far as food is concerned, the refugees tell us that they continue waiting for many hours in an area that looks like a cage – even in the early hours of the morning – in order to get their meals. « We cook again our lunch because it is usually not cooked very well. Usually we cannot consume our dinner because almost every evening they give us eggs», says Jafar from Afghanistan.

 Refugee children living in the hotspot do not have the opportunity to attend school. They wait in the queue for food, to see a doctor or simply to fil their bottles with drinking water. Playing and education have been replaced with trying to survive.

Frequently one meets women, men and children looking for dry branches or wood to use for cooking or lighting a fire so they keep warm. «It is cold and all of us here are freezing at night in our tents. The situation is really bad. But somehow, we manage to survive», says David, a refugee from an African country. In order to deal with such adverse situation, some refugees who have been staying in the ‘jungle’ for months have started planting vegetables around their tents, have built small chicken coups and  makeshift ovens in the ground.

According to the Ministry for Migration Policy statistics, there are still around 6,000 people living in Moria hotspot – that is nearly twice its official capacity. [3] The planning of the Greek government to transfer[4] from now to the end of the year a total of 6,000 from the islands is not expected to solve immediately the serious survival problems that hundreds of refugees living in Moria face; neither will it stop the entrapment of thousands of refugees on the islands as a result of the containment policy.

Refugee Support Aegean asks the immediate transfer of refugees from the Aegean hotspots, the provision of humane and dignified reception conditions based on EU standards and ending the implementation of the containment policy. The toxic EU-Turkey ‘deal’ has destructive consequences for human rights and must be annulled.  

 

Note: The names of refugees interviewed have been changed for the protection of personal data.

[1] Source:  UNHCR, MSF,

[2] ΚΕΕΛΠΝΟ is the competent state agency for the provision of medical and pharmaceutical care in hotspots.

[3] For further information see http://mindigital.gr/index.php/%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%83%CF%86%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C-%CE%B6%CE%AE%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%B1-refugee-crisis/3210-apotyposi-tis-ethnikis-eikonas-katastasis-gia-to-prosfygiko-metanasteftiko-zitima-tin-19-11-2018

[4] Indicatively between 29 October and 18 September, 3,098 refugees had been transferred to mainland Greece. For further information see https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/66649, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/66802, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/66911.

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