May 2019: travel report mission Samos (part 1)

After a busy period of collecting, sorting and organizing, the day arrived that we ourselves would leave for the Greek island of Samos. The assistance transport with two drivers on board had already left a few days earlier and would, if it was a little satisfactory, arrive on the island with us at the same time. The purpose of our visit to Samos was to distribute the relief supplies and to map out and make an inventory of what further structural support is needed. In addition, we wanted to contact the other organizations that are active on the island and see if we can work together or support them in their work. Read the first part of our report about the trip to Samos here!

Christian Refugee Relief
In any case, the assistance on Samos is much smaller and less emphatically present than, for example, on the island of Lesbos. This is partly due to the stubborn attitude of the director of the camp, but more about that later. We have been invited to this mission by our friends from Christian Refugee Relief. Because both organizations are aligned in terms of policy, background and vision, we therefore have a lot in common. During the week this was also expressed by an excellent gathering of great people and with a fantastic, pleasant cooperation. The entire trip was perfectly organized, so we didn’t have to worry about that this week.

Problems with the truck
After a good flight we landed on Samos and after picking up the rental car, we left for our hotel: Hotel Samos. After having installed us, we quickly got back in the car and made contact with another NGO (Refugee 4 Refugees) where we were going to unload the truck with relief supplies. The truck would only arrive late at night. The road to the warehouse, where the things would be unloaded, was fairly narrow and there were a number of large hairpin bends. At one o’clock in the morning the road with the now arrived auxiliary transport was explored, but unfortunately the truck could not reach the warehouse. The curves were too sharp and the road too narrow in some places. The other day after breakfast we started exploring other options to get there, but unfortunately there was no other option. Eventually we unloaded the truck at the volunteer house of this organization. All this still had some feet in the (Greek) earth, but in the end the truck was empty and the terrain was full there … Between all the conversations and activities we were also busy all week long to get the stuff. to be transported to the warehouse (see photo on the left). Greek time, Greek agreements, Greek miscommunication etc. made it a real challenge and in terms of volume it was an 80 cubic meter of relief supplies!

The other day the drivers left for the Netherlands. They made their time, truck and trailer available for free for this auxiliary transport. Really fantastic that they wanted to do this! As organizations, it saves us a great deal in terms of transport costs, which in turn benefits the target group. Sponsors of the fuel and the costs of the ferries are always welcome!

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Indescribable misery
The Samos camp is a so-called hot spot and not a refugee camp. The visible difference is that you will not find UNHCR tents among other things. This camp is meant for around 6,000 people. Almost 4,000 people now live there, including 1,000 children. The Moria camp on Lesbos is known for the (bad) news reports. Very little was known about Samos. During our visit to the camp we became increasingly quiet. Despite the many experiences we have and we are quite used to it, we were literally speechless. What an indescribable misery there! This is almost impossible to put into words …. but we still want to make a try, because the world needs to know how people are suffering here. The world needs to know that humanity no longer matters in rich Europe. That a policy is pursued that is aimed at preventing refugees from crossing the road. A degrading policy. In any case the boats keep coming, and despite the fact that many boats are stopped at sea (of which the refugees are detained in Turkey), many boats still reach the Greek islands. And believe it or not: these people certainly do not come from luxury … People know about the situation on the Greek islands. And yet they make that choice …. Or do they not have a choice?

Building accommodation from cardboard and plastic
The ‘new arrivals’ are registered in the actual camp and then ‘released’ outside the actual camp, in the so-called jungle (see photo on the right). This jungle is already full of all kinds of defective shelters, because the actual camp can no longer store these numbers of people. Often these newly arrived people are exhausted and soaked and do not know what to do. There is no accommodation for them: they will have to build that themselves from materials such as pieces of plastic, tarpaulin or cardboard that they have to get themselves from somewhere. But that is not very easy, because a sail is a rare thing. There are more hijackers on the coast to ‘score’ these materials. Just imagine: there you are with your small children. Cold, hungry, with soaked clothing, on a dangerously steep mountainside, in the dark … Where do you have to go? What should you do? Where to sleep?

No food, no sanitary facilities and months of waiting for the doctor
There is no water supply and no electricity in this jungle. There are no official toilets or other sanitary facilities. The photo on the left shows a home-made ‘bathroom’. (In the official camp there are only a few toilets, far too few on these numbers of people.) The same goes for the showers. Up to 35 people are sitting together in an isolated sea container that has been made suitable for habitation (isobox). That means that you have about one square meter of living space per person …. In the conversations we had with the refugees in the jungle it appears that there is insufficient drinking water and officially no food is provided. One does not know exactly how many people live there, because the registration is in the Greek way (read: very bad). Adults receive 90 euros per month to spend. Note: Samos is an island, so just about everything is supplied by ship and the prices are therefore a lot higher than in the Netherlands. There is hardly any medical care. One doctor is active throughout this camp. If you have to go to the doctor, it’s your turn after three months … So these refugees are completely on their own!

Creative solutions
It is remarkable that humans are also particularly resourceful. For example, here and there the main water pipe from the ‘real camp’ is illegally drained with all kinds of branches to other tents and we even saw a bathroom that was put together (see photo above). The same thing happens with electricity: as soon as there is a possibility to tap electricity somewhere, you see an entire electricity network arise (with all the associated dangers). A kind of small economy of hairdressers and shoemakers … (to be continued).

Click here to read the second part of this report!