This account is from Frances Nixseaman, February 2017
I’m sitting inside a tent in souda camp with people who have become friends since we met in April 2016. I can’t begin to understand why they are still here. One father with his wife and three young children, three young men who came alone leaving families behind. All from Syria, they once had good lives. Educated, professional, cultured and intelligent they left their homes that had been torn apart by war. Now they rot as they wait.
Some refugees want nothing except their papers but for others things would be so much worse if we couldn’t provide warm clothes, diapers, sanitary towels and other essentials. We remain eternally grateful to THSR for the donations which allowed us to do that. There’s also opportunities for people to get a break from the camp by coming to CESRT English Centre or Parent Toddler House. The English lessons are really popular and now we have a local person teaching Greek. On a Friday we stay after lessons to have tea and to hear the talented musicians, there are quite a few, singing or playing guitar. Sometimes students don’t come to lessons as many are struggling with depression and possibly post traumatic stress as well. It still feels like a haven away from camp with a lovely atmosphere and I’ve enjoyed teaching English there. The children come to the Parent Toddler House with parents to play and also get a hot shower and any clothes they need.
The conditions in souda are going to get worse. The independent volunteers who ran Peoples Street Kitchen have already been replaced by a catering company. Last night’s dinner was potatoes and flat bread. Really. Nothing else. Now zaporeak the Basque kitchen will also be replaced in two weeks time. Currently they prepare healthy and varied meals with fresh fruit and vegetables and sometimes olives, almonds and walnuts.
It feels like a deliberate attempt to treat people badly.
On Friday evening I received a call from a lawyer whose client had been attacked and was too scared to leave the police station but they were telling him he has to. She asked if we could help. I phoned the municipality who manage Souda Camp, they replied to say it’s not their responsibility and I called UNHCR who said it wasn’t their responsibility either. So Andy and I took him to our English Centre and spent the night there. We repeated a round of phone calls on Saturday and got nowhere. We paid for a hotel room to get him to Monday hoping maybe then someone would help. Nobody did. He’s hiding now in a camp and I hope he will be safe.
One unaccompanied minor that I worked with since April finally went to Athens in November. He was devastated to get his date for his second interview in March 2018. By then he will be over 18 and the few paltry rights he had as a minor will have vanished. Three Yazidi children have been trapped in Greece since March 2016. Their parents and siblings are legally in Germany and again I do not understand why they have not yet been reunited. Approximately 1000 people have left Chios illegally, with traffickers or on their own. Little wonder.
Being here makes me feel as powerless as I felt at home watching the news on TV showing refugees arriving on boats. I thought I could help. The reality is I can’t give people their human rights or the papers they need to begin to live a life.