May 2019: travel report mission Samos (part 2)
This is the second part of the report about our trip to the Greek island of Samos. You can read the first part here.
Forbidden access: arrested by the police
Officially we were not allowed to come to the camp on Samos, because this is a ‘no go area’. Still we tried to take a look at the ‘real’ camp by asking permission, but we didn’t get it. We were told that we had to leave and that we were not allowed to come here at all. After considerable insistence, we did get the contact details from the camp’s director (!) Who we would really like to speak to this week. There was real contact with her later in the week, but that had little effect. According to her there are no problems, everything is going well and nothing is wrong … This director has a heart of granite and wants absolutely no change. So it’s stuck on that! Unbelievable, but true. She is also a member of precisely that political party that has a chronic aversion to refugees. What a difference then with camp Moria on Lesvos, where the camp manager does work with the NGOs and where the mayor is also ‘NGO-minded’.
When we walked back to the car, we were again confronted with the police and we were all arrested. After showing passports and providing a lot of data (all of which were noted), we were finally allowed to go. Fortunately, there are people detained for less.
Harrowing stories and traumatized people
Yet, on the way to the car, we couldn’t resist walking through the camp, talking to residents and listening to what they had to tell us about their situation. The stories that you hear are actually all the same, but also all equally bizarre. There is insufficient drinking water, no (or too little and one-sided) food, no electricity, no toilets, no showers (except a few in the real camp), no medical facilities, the whole situation is unsafe, many traumatized people and people with psychological problems problems, people touch the alcohol with all the nasty consequences, no waste is collected and the procedures take terribly long. To enter the procedure, an appointment must be made. At this moment you can only go in 2023 or 2024 …! Once you are in the procedure, it will take months. Hopeless!
Many oppositions for foundations
Fortunately there are a few NGOs active (outside the camp) who try to help these people through all sorts of detours, despite the fact that they themselves are thwarted in many ways! That is again the discouragement policy! In the time we were there, a Dutch foundation got a civil servant on the doorstep. Because they had not written all the volunteers who were working for them on one A4 sheet, they were fined 10,000 euros and were able to leave …
Two sanitary napkins per month, rats in the tents
Schurft occurs very regularly in this camp. There is waste between the tents and sheds and it stinks of urine and excrement. For small children it is dangerous, because the terrain is steep and (especially in the rain) impassable. Until recently, small children received five (!) Diapers per week … Women and teenage girls received two (!) Sanitary napkins per monthly cycle. People can wash a little with wet wipes (wet wipes for babies). We have seen several pictures of snakes in the tents, there are many rats and mice and the mosquitoes are already present. Ants walk in and out. Theft is the order of the day: it is everyone. Pregnant women give birth by appointment by caesarean section in the hospital. Within 24 hours these mothers and their baby are already back in the camp, where they have to grub it up again … Empty accommodations are immediately demolished by the police: again that discouragement policy.
What is going well? We make the difference!
Nevertheless, as cooperating foundations (NGOs) we can make a difference there! If we are not allowed to help people build a shelter, we can provide them with materials to build it, such as nails, sail, tents, rope, etc. There were no fewer than 100,000 diapers in our auxiliary transport that were supported by our active supporters. collected. Furthermore, a lot of sanitary pads, clothing, new underwear and shoes. The numbers of diapers and sanitary napkins can therefore be adjusted upwards for the time being. People again have access to footwear that can withstand the conditions of the camp. And there are many hygiene packages made with shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap that are distributed. Every drop of help has an effect!
Education, laundry etc. by other NGOs
Another NGO provides education for teenagers. Furthermore, this NGO has access to an area where people can play a game or meet each other while enjoying a cup of tea. But one can also recharge the phone there, which is important for contact with the family. Another NGO has a number of washing / drying combinations. All residents of the camp can have their clothes washed there via a whole system. It is then their turn once every four months. How wonderful it would be if more of these washing machines and dryers could be donated! A third NGO cooks food for refugees and has two showers where refugees can wash themselves. And yet another NGO is trying to provide medical care to people and to get serious cases treated as a priority in the hospital. They also hand out clothes and shoes. Strollers and buggies are distributed, children’s activities are offered and so on. But the NGOs now present also face the same problems. For example, it is very difficult to rent a room from which you can help the refugees.
The owner of the building is often ‘anti-refugee’, he does not dare because of the neighbors or there is simply no license.
Plans for improvement
While brainstorming this week and linking all the information pieces together, we all agree that good structural assistance is needed here. That is a major challenge in these circumstances. There are plenty of plans: expansion of the capacity to wash clothes, a ‘shop’ where the refugee can choose and fit his clothes and shoes and a larger warehouse for the necessary storage of things. At the moment an area is rented by an NGO that they have flattened and where they want to lay a small football field with artificial grass. Who donates ?! There are already some so-called Dixies on the same site, so there are still toilets (currently 10 Dixies for 3400 people). They also want to decorate a covered corner with some picnic benches and tables with a coffee and tea bar. These are really important initiatives: people are in a hopeless situation and, in addition, are crammed together, which again results in serious difficulties. Relaxation is good to handle the stress and to clear your head. We have been jumping rope with small children for an hour or so: great to see those happy faces and to experience that they can really enjoy themselves at that moment! Being able to forget everything and being a child again …
Thankful for basic necessities
The gratitude of the people during the distribution of shoes and hygiene packages was great. What more could you and would like to do! How nice it would be to be able to give these people the right food and drink, a good shelter: the first necessities of life. All this is happening on Samos; in rich, prosperous Europe, a three-hour flight away. We saw it with our own eyes and do not have the final solution. We have gained a lot of inspiration on how we can contribute. As soon as there are concrete ideas, they will certainly be shared with our fantastic supporters, because we will need your help with that. The collection list of what we continuously collect has been expanded in any case. Keep an eye on this website and the Facebook page: to be continued!