Update On The Ground

17/07/2017 – “In the past week alone, two separate protests have erupted within the main prison-style detention camp on the island. Sparking fires and burning warehouses, these protests have aimed to force the hand of the government to amend both the living conditions and the current asylum process in the camps. Over six hundred refugees have landed on the island in the past two weeks, nearly all of whom are funneled into the camp now hosting over twice the number of residents it was initially designed to house. The asylum process that all refugees in the camp must undergo is lengthy, disorganized, and inefficient. Refugees are directed to certain offices to further their asylum applications, only to be cyclically redirected back to the same office from which they came from. During the latest protest, our organization set up an improvised clinic to help treat any injuries that occurred from the fires or from the mass evacuation of the camp. As there were reports of tear gas being used on some of the protesters, my team was responsible for transferring as much water as we could from our warehouse in Mytilini to the makeshift clinic. We then helped facilitate the evacuation of the camp residents to a safe area nearby, distributing food and water along the way as they were not able to return for several hours.”

“Several families living quarters and belongings were burned in the fire, but thankfully there were no major injuries. Temporary housing has been made available for these families to live in until new living space can be constructed. However, in face of all of this, nearly all of the residents remain thankful and appreciative towards the many aid workers operating in the camp. The tension currently felt remains solely between the refugees and the governmental organizations running the camp. Ahmed is a young Afghani man who I have worked closely with during a few of my projects. A resident of the camp for over eighteen months, Ahmed told me that, “If we did not have these organizations, we would have nothing here – we need them”. This feeling that Ahmed has expressed is largely the same between almost all of the camp’s residents. While I am still cautious, as is necessary, the positive relationships that many of the refugees have fostered with aid workers contribute greatly to the relative safety I feel while carrying out work in the camps. The past two weeks have begun to show me the strange confliction that many people feel while working on the island. Lesvos, a place of insurmountable beauty, is also a place of great despair. To see the beauty of a destination that so many vacation to without fully realizing the atrocities that people have experienced just a few kilometers away, leaves me with a strange feeling. In the past two weeks alone I have met some of the most inspirational, positive, and caring people in my life, whose only crime was fearing for their own safety and for the safety of their families. I cannot help but think that if faced with the same situation, I would have done the same.”

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