Keeping going!

19th September 2015

Lesvos remains.

As I returned to Germany it became clear to me that the Lesvos´ conditions for refugees the way I experienced them this year will linger on my mind forever. I knew the island before. I had a rough idea of what was coming but no one could imagine what actually happened this year to thousands and thousands of desperate people all over Europe. And it´s keeping me constantly wondering about this so called “refugee crisis” that is easily called this way when arguments needed to build fences and make war against people who have nothing and about states and nations responsible for this.

The situation on the island might change over time – And it does! On a daily basis things change rapidly and extremely! Still and forever I guess. – But the struggles and horrors of people seeking shelter remains.

We are already making new plans for next year. We want to continue in this. We will! Of course!

If you feel like supporting us or learn more, please have a look at our new blog on which we explain our plans:

A bank account for donations will be coming soon!


19th August 2015: last days on lesvos

picture by Anton Willemann, find him on instagram!

Last days on Lesvos.

Now that I have stayed for six weeks what I understood is that the situation remains unstable, insecure and hard to capture: You never know whether mayor, the municipality, the port police, the coast guard or NGOs will do as they said.

I believe that my main work had been collecting information and contacts of responsibles for each question that came up.

I came completely by myself and I am grateful that I could stay with an activist of the village of altogether. I tried to support the village as well as I could.

However my main efforts were much more ambitious, even too ambitious as I realized.

In the beginning I could not stand what I saw. There were no visible NGOs at Kara Tepe nor the outside of Moria. The village of altogether collapsed under the need of the people and the inaccessibility of all other actors.

The weeks passed and things changed (luckily) just to change back in my last days again. As we had less and less refugess coming for one or two weeks the number increased again in my last days and the camps were packed just as before. It also became obvious during this time that everyone´s and mainly the NGOs´ efforts had not been sufficient.

I don´t know what to say about the situation on Lesvos anymore. What I believe should be done in the future is a better helpers´ structure. NGOs should not just talk to local supporters they should work with them. Working with locals, building real teams, creating info points and making spaces people like me – volunteers – might come to and stay and work with is crucial for ongoing processes on lesvos.

It has been a great deal of work getting into the lesvos helping structures. I got great feedback of my friends from Germany. Some would like to participate theirselves. I wish I had proper answers for them. I dream of a centre where volunteers could stay and support and organize from there. In my opinion this might be one of the most important things right now because refugees will keep coming. We´re not even yet in September. And then the winter comes….

I came to Lesvos to make a change.

And besides practical help such as distributing things and coming to the camps on a daily basis I think – as mentioned before – that my biggest efforts had been concentrated on understanding the existing structures and connecting with all actors.

On 9th August my friend Sebastian from Germany arrived to support me. Together he, me and our friends and activists from Germany had collected a great deal of donations that we want to use for exactly the purpose I came to Lesvovs: creating change.

I had an idea of change in my head from the first day on. This change was radical and all-embracing. And also unrealistic. We are all captured in a system of bureaucracy, laziness and insecurity.

Therefore I came to the point that I disagreed with my other six-weeks-ago-self that wanted to create another world. I realized that helping all people from for example (outside-area-)Moria for just one week is helping everyone. It is all I can do because I can do it now. Now!

My friend Sebastian and I decided to spend the donations on three things:

  • creating shade in one abandoned construction in outside space of Moria by building a provisional roof
  • secondly building water drains from the toilet and shower house to finally get rid of the swampy areas around there and creating a more stable hygiene situation in order to…
  • … eventually paying a cleaning company to fully clean and desinfect the toilets and showers four times for two weeks. We hope NGOs and the municipality will take over as promised afterwards

Why Moria?

Moria is not in the town of Moria, it is outside next to a highway. People outside of Moria (always what I speak of, I haven´t had a chance to look inside. No one can go inside, it is a detention camp and therefore unapproachable for us volunteers) are mainly Afghan. That is to say that all other nationalities except Syrians are being sent to Moria. Syrian are being sent to Kara Tepe.

While Syrian refugees escape their home country in order to flee war they sometimes have left some money or savings. With Afghans it is different in my experience. They usually cannot afford a fifty-cent-waterbottle.

And even if they had so no supermarket could be found closeby. It is a long walk down to Mytilini or inside Moria.

I got back to Berlin yesterday night. My friend continues our efforts, building the things and paying the cleaners. He will leave in the beginning of next week.

By now he and our helpers (and also helping refugees from the camps who support us helping them) have already finished the roof.

I don´t have any visual material by now but I will keep this page updated about what we finally did.

I wish I could have done more myself. I wish I could have stayed longer. But I could not. After six weeks I am tired and disaffected.

I will reflect on what had happened, I will keep updating this blog and I will stick to the problematic of refugees which in fact is a problematic of globilazation and world structure as we are being told, as we live it and give into it.

During the next days and weeks I will update this blog with information and pictures I get from my activist friends on Lesvos and I will finally translate to German. Thank you for your patience and stay tuned.

15th August 2015

15th August 2015

Yesterday we gave out food at Moria with the solidarity kitchen that arrived. The team has given out food before at Kara Tepe for some days. They also want to continue their work until end of September.

These days many more refugees arrive again. The camps are once again packed with people. The athmosphere is heated.

Arrivals from the north started to walk again. The buses cannot take them all. Once again they wander in the sun. It´s a mess.

Seeing people being thankful for a bottle of water is a depressing experience.

Yesterday night many people in the port (mainly syrian refugees) didn´t get registered anymore. The police stopped registration at approximately 11pm. We got informed that after they stopped people got desperate and aggressive and the police had trouble keeping them down and also reacted in an aggressive way. As we arrived the situation was calm again. But the harbour area is horrible. It is extremely dirty and stinks everywhere. There is no structure whatsoever and the hygiene situation is alarming.

No one would like to be in their shoes (3) / Wir stecken nicht in ihren Schuhen (3)

Kara Tepe 7th/8th August: after shoes were in the sea, people washed out the salt and put them to dry in the sun
Kara Tepe 7th/8th August: after shoes were in the sea, people washed out the salt and put them to dry in the sun
"shoes from Iran" worn by afghan girl Mobi who didn´t like to talk, 2nd August 2015 at Pikpa
“shoes from Iran” worn by afghan girl Mobi who didn´t like to talk, 2nd August 2015 at Pikpa

8th August 2015

8th August 2015

After a long period without blogging I will now give a quick overview about the situation of the area of Mytilini and closeby.

For now the mayor has decided not to close the camp of Kara Tepe. It remains a camp in which only syrian refugees wait for there transfer papers.

The first registration area for all arriving refugees is mainly in the port.

Moria is still used as a detention centre and has (in my opinion) turned into the most vulnerable spot. People still wait outside Moria, just like on my second day. The only difference is that now it is only used for non-syrian refugees (mainly afghan, pakistani, iraki. but other nationalities, too of course.) because they have to face other procedures (like giving fingerprints) and for them it takes longer as they don´t have the kind of fast track system that syrian refugees do.

Pikpa, as a non-state-run camp didn´t have to go through those troubles of course and didn´t change much during the past days or week.People come and go and some others stay.

I will not continue about Pikpa here because it does not belong to the same topic really, as it is run by the association of the village and compared to what happens on the island in other places not quite the same thing and cannot be covered here.

Kara Tepe has got showers, fresh ground, a lot less people, finally medical support and other supports like people distributing diapers, shoes, sanitary towels, soaps and so on from time to time.

Yet it is to say that MDM an MSF have started approximately a week ago so about 1st August. On monday the 3rd August more than 15 doctors and nurses of whole greece came and built a solidarity clinic tent at Kara Tepe. So for the last five days there have been more than enough medical helpers. The solidarity doctors however did a lot more than “just” taking medical care: They distributed things, played and painted with the children and one of the most important things: They were present! They were there. They gave Kara Tepe a new face because there was someone to come to, even though no authority, no one actually responsible, it however felt to me like something very precious.

The solidarity doctors will leave tomorrow. They were great! I am very happy they were here. They will also leave the tent and there was a meeting with local doctors who will hopefully continue this great work.

So, many things have improved at Kara Tepe. Still all new arrivals are in shock when they face their situation in Kara Tepe and the insecurity of not knowing how long they will have to stay. Luckily for what I can say by now people have to wait for their papers approximately two nights or less.

So has Kara Tepe improved? Yes, it has. But what about the toilets? Enough tents? Food? No. Nothing. We don´t know what the NGOs have in mind and what next steps will be taken. And then there´s also autumn ahead coming. Like this it cannot continue.

(I notice just now – and maybe you dear reader notice it, too – that I don´t even think about E.U. support or improvements coming from mayor or municipality. Well, that´s the situation as it is. Not even thinking about it.)

And even though I´d like to think that the horror of Kara Tepe´s last weeks has been averted, I feel like it has only changed places. Kara Tepe the way I first saw it, is not over. It has just another name and now it is called Moria.

With Moria a lot of other problems appear: Firstly you never know what happens inside. Secondly when I speak of Moria I actually mean the waiting people outside of Moria, about the inside, once again, we do not know. And thirdly: Because it is about a not even officially existing area, and maybe also because people are already almost in such an official area it is uneasy to help for no one really knows about responsibilities (police? mayor? us?) and easy to forget about them. 

Yes. Forgetting about people. What a fucked-up thing that is.

Pictures of Kara Tepe taken on 05th August 2015:

Pictures from Kara Tepe 7th and 8th August

Pictures of Moria from 3rd August. What is a detention camp? It is when no one can go out and no one can go inside and therefore cannot help and is not allowed to take pictures or document what is going on. It is exactly what it sounds like: Realistically it´s a prison.

Moria camp and outside 3rd August
Moria camp and outside 3rd August
Moria camp and outside 3rd August: people´s "tents"
Moria camp and outside 3rd August: people´s “tents”
Moria camp and outside 3rd August: a prison
Moria camp and outside 3rd August: a prison

27th July 2015 quick update: hope / 27. Juli 2015 Schnellinfos: Hoffnung

27th July 2015

It has been for some days now that things seem to change. I will quickly try to give an overview of the for me personally most striking changes:

– NGOs finally started programmes, and hopefully more will follow. This contains:

IRC (International Rescue Committee) and MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) have devided the camp Kara Tepe into two scopes of duties. They want to improve water and sanitary situation and partly they have already done so: IRC has built showers and raised the water pipes. The water is drinkable for what they say. And when I talked to refugees today they agreed on that. People got sick mainly because the pipes were so low on the ground and after all people doing their dishes and laundry there it became a highly infective area. This problem will hopefully be improved by raising the pipes. Some of them on the IRC side have ben raised already. I hope they´ll finish it on both sides soon.

Also on IRC´s side of the camp fresh rubble was put in some areas and hopefully soon everywhere in the camp. I still saw some very disgusting swampy areas and children playing next to them. However there have been some improvements made already! Let´s see during the next days.

IRC also tried to clean “their” side of the camp on saturday. It´s like tilting at windmills but it´s great they did so and I hope it can only be seen as first babysteps.

– Buses drive refugees from Molyvos all way down to Mytilini or to Kara Tepe now. Finally! Which means that people do not have to take the whole way by walking which is crucial.

Many buses are provided by MSF and they also drive around in the area around Mytilini and collect walking refugees and safe them from the boiling sun.
I heard that UNHCR is also preparing a bus programme.

what remains unknown and:

– Moria; Even IRC is not allowed inside to check the situation. I don´t know about MSF. I know UNHCR is active there. But what they do right now? No idea.

– Steady medical help at Kara Tepe.

– Food. The caterer that is supposed to give food to the refugees is paid (or not) by the government which owes him about 300,000 € already. He knows he will be paid eventually so he continues to work, but does it very irregularly and the food is most times uneatable (worms in the soup….), as refugees have told me all the time. I have not met a single person in Kara Tepe that actually eats the food. I could see it for myself today.

Deutsche Übersetzung folgt morgen.

27th July 2015

A 45 years old syrian male refugee died from heartattack in the night of friday to saturday in the hospital of Mytilini. He was taken from Kara Tepe to the hospital by the ambulance. He was seeking refuge in Europe together with his son.

Deaths like this had happened before. And even though the situation does seem to change these days it is yet another example of what just should not happen! Permanent medical help in the camps is essential and indispensable and still not provided.

I am very sorry for what happened. He was christian and there has been a funeral arranged for tomorrow morning in one of the churches.

UPDATE: The man´s corpse had been buried this morning without the activist´s knowledge who prepared the funeral. We also have no further information of his son´s whereabouts. I cannot believe those things happen.

27. Juli 2015

Ein 45 jähriger syrische Flüchtling ist in der Nacht von Freitag auf Samstag im Krankenhaus von Mytilini in Folge eines Herzinfarkts verstorben. Er wurde zuvor mit dem Nottransport aus dem Lager Kara Tepe abgeholt und war mit seinem Sohn auf der Flucht.

Es hat bereits einige Todesfälle solcher Art gegeben. Und auch wenn sich die Situation im Allgemeinen zu ändern scheint, ist es ein Beispiel für Dinge, die einfach nicht weiter geschehen dürfen! Ununterbrochene medizinische Hilfe in den Camps ist absolut unverzichtbar und wird immer noch nicht gewährleistet!

Es tut mir sehr leid für das was passiert ist. Er war Christ und für morgen Früh ist eine  Beerdigung in einer der hiesigen Kirchen angesetzt.

UPDATE: Die Leiche des Mannes wurde bereits heute morgen ohne das Wissen derjenigen Aktivisten, die das Begräbnis vorbereiten wollten, beigesetzt. Über den Aufenthaltsort seines Sohnes wissen wir weiterhin nichts. Ich kann nicht glauben, dass solche Dinge passieren können.

Two girls from Pikpa / Zwei Mädchen aus Pikpa

24th July 2015

This is Mina. She stays with her Mother, younger sister and grandparents at Pikpa. Her father waits for them in Athens.

They are from Syria and came by boat. It took them ten hours over the sea. The boat was leaking so they stood in water up to their hips for the whole time.

Mina´s younger sister caught such a bad cold that she had to be sent to the hospital. Yesterday night we picked them up again.

This is Mina waiting outside the hospital:

24.Juli 2015

Das ist Mina. Sie ist mit ihrer Mutter, jüngerer Schwester und ihren Großeltern in Pikpa. Ihr Vater wartet auf sie alle in Athen.

Sie kommen aus Syrien und sind mit dem Boot geflohen. Zehn Stunden hat die Überfahrt gedauert. Da das Boot ein Leck hatte standen sie die ganze Zeit über hüfthoch im Wasser.

Ihr kleine Schwester hatte danach eine derart schlimme Erkältung, dass sie ins Krankenhaus musste.

Gestern Nacht haben wir sie dort wieder abgeholt.

Das ist Mina, wie sie vor dem Krankenhaus wartet:

This is Kamran. She has a problem with oxygen transfer. Because of language barriers and lack of medical comprehension of mine I cannot tell you much more about it. But I know that she has it since she was born and needs special medication.

The volunteers of Pikpa take quite an effort to try and help.

When Kamran sleeps she makes a little sound as if she was thinking about something very intensely or doing something very exhausting, which I guess is exactly what she does.

Kamran is quite shy but she relaxes very well when you speak to her with a soft voice and say nice things, even not in Arabic, I think she gets the gist.

She cannot sit for herself much less can she crawl or walk.

But she is marvellous.

(sidenote 8th August 2015: “she” is actually a “he”. I apologize for the mistake. In the end I however don´t think that it matters. THE VILLAGE did some hard work and paid a lot of money to get flights for him and his mother to athens last week in order of medication. There doctors found out he had been falsly diagnosed the whole time. At first it didn´t look good for him at all. But luckily now the doctors are much more optimistic. He will make it!)

Das ist Kamran. Sie hat Schwierigkeiten mit der Sauerstoffzufuhr. Aufgrund von Sprachbarrieren und meinem mangelnden medizinischen Verständnis kann ich darüber nicht mehr berichten, außer dass sie es schon von Geburt an hat und spezieller Medikamentation bedarf.

Die Freiwilligen von Pikpa helfen ihr so gut sie können.

Wenn Kamran schläft macht sie kleine Geräusche, als ob sie angestrengt über eine Sache nachdenken würde, oder etwas sehr anstrengendes täte. Wahrscheinlich ist das auch so.

Kamran ist ziemlich schüchtern, aber sie entspannt sich gut, wenn man ganz sanft mit ihr redet, sogar wenn es nicht auf Arabisch ist. Ich denke sie versteht schon worum es einem geht.

Sie kann nicht allein sitzen, geschweige denn krabbeln oder gar laufen.

Aber sie ist toll.

(Anmerkung 8.August 2015: “Sie” ist eigentlich ein “er”. Der Fehler tut mir sehr leid. Letzten Endes ändert es aber nichts. THE VILLAGE hat harte Arbeit geleistet und viel Geld bezahlt, damit Kamran und seine Mutter letzte Woche nach Athen konnten. Dort wurde festgestellt, dass Kamran eine falsche Diagnose gestellt bekommen hatte. Es sah erst sehr schlecht aus. Unterdessen sind die Ärzte zum Glück sehr optimistisch. Er schafft es!)

No one would like to be in their shoes (2) / Wir stecken nicht in ihren Schuhen (2)

21st July 2015

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