Last month, Chloe Sarshar followed a lifelong dream to devote herself to international relief work. The purpose of her journey was to assist in a Registration Camp in Lesvos, Greece, helping refugees fleeing from the Middle East. Shedoesthecity was so inspired by Chloe’s endeavour oversees that we wanted to showcase some excerpts from her personal travel blog. ICYMI, here is Chloe’s previous post.
Part 2: We’re all in this together
Yesterday I went to Moria. I started my morning off in Pikpa, a camp that is hosting refugees who are in a vulnerable state and cannot continue their travels right away (i.e., pregnant women, children, people with disabilities and some elderly folks). As the weather gets colder, they are hoping to move more people to Pikpa from Moria.
With the temperatures dropping so low, there is a large concern for those staying at Moria as there is little shelter and most people are sleeping on the ground. One volunteer also had the idea to take a little insulation out of the life jackets and wear it under his coat to keep warm. This worked brilliantly.
Because of political issues, the Greek government is not calling Moria a Refugee Camp. Instead it is a Registration Camp. This means that once refugees have received their registration documents, they are free to enter Europe through Athens; however, since more people come in over the course of day than can be processed by Frontex (the EU Border Agency) many are left waiting for several days or weeks in order to be registered. Upon arrival to Moria, refugees are given a ticket with the date they arrived and a number. Every day, outside the barbed-wire gates, Frontex announces which dates and numbers they will be processing; usually they are several days behind.
Moria is so chaotic; there is little organization and close to no fluid communication among the Greek government, Frontex, NGOs and volunteers. What’s more is that the NGOs are severely limited in the services they can provide and are not allowed to develop any infrastructure (e.g., bathrooms or running water) without permits, which the Greek government has made nearly impossible to acquire.
Currently there are refugees coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. At present all Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians are being denied registration all together and have been forced to set up on the beaches. The ONLY aid they are currently receiving is from Kitchens Without Borders. Furthermore, the Greek government is not even deporting people back to their countries, so many are simply stranded on the island.
Despite all this, the atmosphere in Moria is fairly serene; clowns walk through the camp singing and dancing for the refugees and one man even managed to get “the wave” going with a bunch of people who were waiting in line for water.
We met a family of 18 (8 of them children) who had been travelling for over a month, mostly by foot. They told us that their dream is to get to Germany where their children can study. One of the young girls, Leila, wants to be a doctor.
I also had a long conversation with two men from Iran who were extremely friendly and chatty. One man, Ali, had been split from his partner 35 days ago and he showed me a video of his newborn daughter whom he has yet to meet. He also showed me videos of his Martial Art competitions and told me he was one of the leading champions of his division in Iran. Ali is currently one of the refugees that is volunteering at Moria and plans to stay there for a little longer before joining his family.
The other man told me about his long and dangerous journey to get here. He said that travelling in the boat from Turkey was both the most dangerous and stupid thing he has ever done; there were moments where he felt sure they would not make it. After a moment he said, “But you know, I had to leave a bad situation back home and if this is what I have to do to start a better life, it is all worth it. Inshallah.”
Tonight I am off to do the night shift at Moria. There have been only a few boats coming in lately, as the waters have been quite dangerous. The camp should be quiet tonight.