Moria / Lesbos: Rain-sodden feet, frozen white hands, hypothermic pregnant women and trampled down children

The “Hot Spot” of horror is what Moria turned to the last week and since its inauguration when numbers of new arrivals were high and the weather conditions harsh with constant rain falls. The authorities together with the UNHCR and all other involved actors of the humanitarian aid regime failed in protecting hundreds of refugees from what was a predictable catastrophe.

Trying to protect his baby / copyright: Salinia Stroux

Trying to protect his baby / copyright: Salinia Stroux

“Mummy, mummy…,” desperate voices of children cut the sound of the strong rain fall like knives on Friday night when the horror of Moria reached once more its peak. In the darkness around the Non-Syrian gate of Moria three children are standing in the mud and crying. The two sisters and one brother lost hold of their parents. “They told us to wait in the tent. Then they went to get the documents for us. We are 5 days waiting in the queue. Two days we are permanently wet. We are hungry. We freeze. Our parents left hours ago. Now it is dark. We are afraid in the tent alone.”
Small boy covered in garbage bag / copyright: Salinia Stroux

Small boy covered in garbage bag / copyright: Salinia Stroux

That night dozens of children lose their parents. Others are aside their families in the queue. Only dozens of families still hold their places in the line as rain falls got so strong that rivers of water are falling down the dusty road of the queue where people are standing. Some are barefoot. Most are covered only with garbage bags. All are wet. The few people who didn’t give up in the hope to get a chance to enter now that most have tried to find a shelter to protect themselves from the rain, a pushing towards the fence. Small children faces are pressed on the fence. They are crying.

An old woman is merely able to move from the cold / copyright: Salinia Stroux

An old woman is merely able to move from the cold / copyright: Salinia Stroux

A family is standing in the olive field. Among them an old woman. Her hands have become white from the water and the cold. Next to her a young man barefoot.
No proper rain protection for the small ones / copyright: Salinia Stroux

No proper rain protection for the small ones / copyright: Salinia Stroux

A small boy is crying like crazy. He is wet all over. Even after receiving a blanket from a volunteer and getting a little warm he cannot stop screaming. “He is very cold. We are three days in the rain now,” his father explains. Next to the father stand another young man. He holds a garbage bag in his arms as its seems. Getting closer one can recognize the small face of a baby not older than 3 months behind the black plastic. Everyone is trying to find protection anywhere. “We were in the front of the line. Then people started pushing as the gate opened. The police threw tear gas. We had to escape. We we 5 days in the queue and now we lost our place in the line. What should we do?”

Drying clothes over the fire inside Moria camp / copyright: Salinia Stroux

Drying clothes over the fire inside Moria camp / copyright: Salinia Stroux

People are running around searching for any place to sleep, to be protected. Some find shelter in small huts of farmers. Others enter the toilettes and light fires there. Very few have found a place in the UNHCR tents inside Moria. But even there the floors are wet all over.

Swimming hall in the port of Mytilene / copyright: Marily Stroux

Swimming hall in the port of Mytilene / copyright: Marily Stroux

The mayor decides finally to open the old swimming hall in the port as a provisory shelter. He had announced that several times over this summer. Yet the place never got cleaned. Refugees entering the hall which has no lights and is smelling bad as it was used as a toilette during summer by the thousands of refugees in the port are shocked. Most parts of the floor are covered with water. It is wet and filthy. But there is no alternative.

That night the hospital is full of refugees suffering from hypothermia, pregnant women who are in in danger of a miscarriage or who already lost their child, and many others who got injured in the queues or sick from hunger, thirst and cold.

Read also the Press Release of the Village “All-together”:


Seeking protection from the rain / copyright: Chrissi Wilkens

Seeking protection from the rain / copyright: Chrissi Wilkens

Over the past few months, a response to the refugee crisis that consistently creates problems has been forced upon the inhabitants of the islands, clashes and circumstances that the islanders are called to accept as an unavoidable reality and need. The daily newscast images of those that drown in the Aegean risk becoming routine. As those that work in the media know, even the most hideous picture ceases to shock after a while. In Mytilene we have gone through five months of pure horror.

We are forced to accept as reality the bodies of dead children and their mothers that are washed up on the shores, the exploitation of the most basic needs by our “fellow citizens” who are making a “hefty living” from the refugees’ desperation, the hypocrisy of organisations that show the human face of Europe with a blanket or a bottle of water, silencing its responsibility in covering up the main cause of this crime: the wars engineered or boosted by their governments’ policies. The “Europe of solidarity” doesn’t notice, or “expresses its sorrow” or will hold “a minute’s silence”, flushing the shame of a system that pretends its looking for solutions and favours repression and violence as a means to manage the refugee issue. From the moment that FRONTEX took over “interception and rescue”, there are dozens of dead in the Aegean, the waters are turning into death traps, there are attacks by masked men on boats and dangerous push back operations, as reported by Human Rights Watch.

The EU, despite all Summits and “measures”, still does not offer safe passage to refugees, in violation of international treaties. Instead it strengthens Frontex which assumes the surveillance of the borders, blocking the safe passage of refugees. It denounces smugglers, but in reality it tolerates and strengthens the wild exploitation of refugees with its policies. Europe doesn’t want refugees and migrants. It doesn’t want to give solutions. It doesn’t want the creation of a safe European corridor with organised identification centres (which won’t change their procedures every so often).

Even though the UNHCR released data months ago for the increase in flows by autumn, neither the authorities nor the organisations took care to ensure humane reception and accommodation conditions. However huge amounts of money are given to Frontex for border surveillance and pushbacks.

We have reached the end of October with thousands of refugees under the rain, without reception facilities, without accommodation, hygiene, toilets, food and water. Those in Moria live inside a landfill and are treated like garbage themselves. There are no doctors at night, vulnerable people who are entitled to priority processing aren’t identified, the unaccompanied minors are in appalling detention conditions (10-year-old or 12-year-old boys and girls coexisting with 20-year-olds), there is no clear information regarding their identification process or even a constant identification system. There’s a lack of interpreters, the queues turn into conflict areas. Those that have an idea of what’s happening in Moria know that everyone (authorities and organisations) tolerate police violence as a necessary evil and instead of sending identification staff they reinforce the riot police units. There is no formal complaint about the daily teargas and beatings, the unacceptable behaviour towards people that have no way to protect themselves. The complete failure of authorities and NGOs to coordinate leaves the refugees at the mercy of the police and the forces of repression.

While millions of euros are dancing around the reception centres and the announcements of further hot spot funding, it’s time for the citizens of this land to demand the allocation of responsibility for this endless torture that they are forced to watch and participate in, even though they don’t experience it themselves.

We therefore call everyone to take to the streets and demand that our islands don’t turn into hot spots – landfills for humans, concentration camps that will sort people to pick Europe’s cheap workforce. The first hot spots are organised in Greece with the help of the UNHCR, which means that returns to the first country of entry under the Dublin Regulation are reactivated, the northern borders are closing and people will be stuck here in deplorable conditions.

NGOs, authorities and institutions should finally coordinate.

Violence should stop at Moria.

There should be humane identification spaces.

Open the borders.

When words have lost their gravity,
when shouts turn into guilty silence,
it’s time to take to the streets.

Village ‘All Together’

The infomobile

... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.

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