Tag Archive for 'reception conditions'

Call for help from mothers in the quarantined Malakasa refugee camp

copyright: private

Hello from the (old) Malakasa refugee camp and our best wishes to all people outside,

We write this letter to ask you, the ones struggling to offer aid and assistance to people in need, to not leave us the people of Malakasa camp alone, especially during the COVID-19 quarantine!

It is very difficult to live a life in the Greek camps in general. We have many problems, but we will mention only a few of them, that are putting a lot of pressure on us now:

1. Lack of sufficient medical services inside the camp, specifically for those with Covid-19 symptoms and those with chronic and serious diseases or the mentally ill who need regular follow-ups and medication

2. Lack of sufficient medicine in the camp, for example: Depon, Amoxicillin, Paracetamol. During the quarantine we are not allowed outside. Most of the times also before the pandemic, we were told to buy our medicines ourselves. Most of us have no AMKA. Many faced problems already before the lock down as they lack money to buy anything still waiting for their Cash-Cards. Now, we cannot even go out to a pharmacy. We depend completely on what medicines we may be given by the camp doctors and these are highly limited! In the afternoons and weekends there is no doctor here anyway. We feel unarmed in this worldwide struggle for health. 

3. Lack of secured access to clean running water inside the camp and lack of drinking water. How can we follow the preventative measures explained to us if we have not even that?

4. Lack of safety and security for everyone in the camp, particularly at night. There are police outside the camp to hinder us from going outside, but inside we are left alone when no organization is present during the nights and weekends. We worry a lot for the safety of our children specifically! We are locked-up, peoples’ psychology has become worse and we don’t know who to address during an emergency. 

5. Lack of camp wide stable WIFI access (internet), so that people can be informed about the daily news, can contact the emergency number handed out by the camp management. We also need to keep up our contacts to the outside world and specifically to our families whom we worry about in these times as you worry for your beloved ones. 

6. Lack of access to ATMs and Western Union and shops. During quarantine they do not give us permission to exit the camp so the ones with Cash-Cards cannot withdraw money from banks any may lose the last charges and the others cannot receive money from relatives in other countries. Many of us are left without any cash. We also cannot purchase anything from the shops inside the camp. The shops have doubled their prices since the lockdown. 

7. Lack of vitamin food products and insufficient supply of basic food products. The food baskets we receive once a week do not contain fresh fruits and vegetables. We need vitamins for our kids, the elder and the sick at least to be healthy and strong and resist the virus. Also, we do not receive sufficient basic products such as oil, eggs and flour in order to secure sufficient meals.

8. Lack of masks, gloves and disinfection sprays. We were not handed any materials to protect ourselves from getting infected by the virus, while we are more than 1,800 persons locked up together and living side by side with an unknown number of infected. Among us are many highly vulnerable persons: elderly, kids, persons with Diabetes, heart disorders and other chronic diseases. We need masks and gloves or disinfection sprays – at least to protect the vulnerable among us. 

Those of us who live in tents face even more problems: 

9. Lack of adequate shelter. More than 400 people (among them many kids) sleep in summer tents and even if we assume that there is no other solution than these tents for newcomers, while the containers (prefabs) have exceeded their capacity, there is also no suitable place for these tents where they could be protected from the weather AND be in safe distance to each other. Even now during the pandemic, several people are sleeping in tents which are placed in a very close distance to each other inside a big tent and another building. Others have placed their tents under the sky and suffer from every rainfall and storm. We cannot practice social distancing here! We cannot protect ourselves from the cold like this! Many of us are sick and we cannot understand if we have a cold due to the bad living conditions or if we got infected by the virus. 

10. Lack of hot water in the commonly shared showers and water taps. How we should disinfect things like our plates or clothes without hot water? How should we use the soaps, when there are water cuts? How we should keep distance from each other when water taps are placed all together and next to each other?

11. Lack of clean and functioning toilets. The filthy toilets people without proper shelter have to share are a further source of infections. 

The reason why many of us are desperate to go out of the camp is because we need help. If we cannot keep our families safe, clean, healthy, protected from hunger, we struggle for more basic things than just against a virus. 

We ask you to stand in solidarity with us at least as long as we cannot go out and completely depend on what is given to us.

We urgently need the following items:

  • Masks (at least for the infected and the vulnerable)
  • Gloves or disinfection sprays 
  • Antipyretic medication for adults and kids such as Depon and Depon Syrup (for kids)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (potatoes, onions, tomatoes mainly)
  • Oil, flour, eggs
  • Pampers and baby milk

Sincerely,

Mothers of Malakasa refugee camp

(21.04.2020 – after the extension of our quarantine and lock down that started on 5 April)

“We should be with him now, and he needs us too!”

A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece (3)

Zinab* and Ahmed in Greece speak with Farhad, who lies in hospital in Germany

A man separated from his wife and young child stuck in Greece – he is dying of cancer in Germany

This family belong to Aachen!

Zinab* came to Greece with her husband Farhad and son Ahmed who is 8 years old. Now Farhad is in Germany, separated from his wife and son and he is in the late stages of cancer, with only months to live.

The family are Kurdish, from Afrin (Syria). It was in Turkey that Farhad found out he was seriously ill with cancer. But because he is Kurdish, none of the hospitals in Turkey answered the family’s questions or cared for his wellbeing. The family were harassed regularly in Turkey only because they are Kurdish. It was not a safe place for them.

So, in March 2018 the family risked their lives to find safety in Europe and travelled by boat to the Greek island of Samos. They spent 40 days sleeping crowded together in a summer tent in the ‘hotspot’ Vathy on the island. Farhad was incredibly sick – vomiting and unable to eat. Due to the dire living conditions his situation worsened.

When the doctors examined him, they said he was dying. It was cold and raining and the ground was wet beneath them in the tent. Ahmed was begging his parents to leave Greece – he couldn’t use the toilets they were so dirty. There was no warm water to wash with. Farhad was suffering in pain and his family had only cold water to bathe him and cold earth to sleep on.

Because Farhad needed urgent medical attention, the family were transferred to a refugee camp on mainland Greece. Farhad was in the isolated camp almost one month still in severe pain.

Once in the mainland camp, Farhad’s pain did not cease. On three occasions an ambulance had to travel the long distance to the family’s camp because Farhad was in such pain. They injected him with pain killers. Eventually, he was taken to hospital, where he stayed for 2 months. Farhad had many tests and an emergency surgery that lasted eleven hours. Zinab was warned that he might not survive this. Zinab and Ahmed slept in the hospital for 4 days because the camp they were supposed to live in was over an hour away.

A few days before Farhad left hospital, Zinab and their child were moved to an apartment in Athens and Farhad was discharged there. He had to go to the hospital every week and was constantly taking medication. The family stayed around six months together in Athens but everyone, including Farhad’s doctors, said that he would have a better chance of survival if he was treated in Germany because they had a better equipped public health system and secured access to the necessary medicines there. Farhad said his Greek doctors treated him very well but he hoped he would have more chance to heal elsewhere and survive his dangerous sickness.

Throughout his time in Greece, Farhad was suffering, he had even thought of committing suicide to end the pain. It was an unbearable decision and a gruelling journey but in January 2019 Farhad travelled alone to Germany as the family had no possibility to go together. He went to Germany to get well and to struggle for his life and for his family.

The family had no idea that they would end up separated for such a long period. When they understood how difficult it was to be together again, they found a lawyer in Athens who is assisting with their case for family reunification through the German embassy. But over one year later, the family remain apart. It is difficult to get essential documents from Syria because of the war and Farhad does not have long to live. 

The family video call almost every day but it is a cruel replacement for life together, especially when little time is left. In his waking hours Ahmed talks of his father – he tells his friends at school he will go soon to be with his father in Germany, he asks his mother when he will be able to kiss his dad again, or walk with him the streets. While asleep, Ahmed dreams of Farhad.

Zinab also cannot bear life without her husband beside her. She fears that nobody is there to do the simple things for him, to talk with him, give him a glass of water.

In the last weeks, Farhad has had multiple operations. Little Ahmed cries for days on end, he says he wants to see his father, he wants his family to be together. Zinab tries to be strong but she also cries often.

“We should be with him now, and he needs us too!”

Zinab

* names changed

Some facts about obstacles that cancer patients in Greece face

For many years, all cancer patients in Greece face huge obstacles to obtain timely access to necessary diagnostics, examinations and treatments. Austerity measures have hit the public health system hard since the start of the debt crisis in Greece in 2009. Cancer patients are among the ones who suffer most.

Funding for state-run hospitals was cut by more than 50% in the last decade. They suffer from severe shortages in everything, from sheets, gauzes and syringes, to doctors and nurses. The patients who can afford it, thus often turn to private health care. The others struggle.

A new study titled “A New National Health System” commissioned by Dianeosis, found out that Greece nowadays spends only 5 percent of its gross domestic product on public healthcare versus the European Union (EU) average of 7 percent.

“The minimum safe limit for every health system, as we have repeatedly stressed, is 6 percent of GDP.” 

Panhellenic Medical Association 2019

The authors of the study ascribe the healthcare crisis in Greece to cuts to funding, under-staffing and mismanagement—the source of which is linked to a decade of austerity measures. As one consequence, the young generation of Greek doctors was forced to emigrate in search for jobs. It is estimated, that more than 15,000 doctors left the country, mainly for the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Sweden.

The difficulties of accessing and using health services in Greece have grown particularly for those who need them most, thus jeopardising the element of equality and social justice. More than that, the study found, that today one in five Greek people are unable to pay for health services when they need it; one in three cancer patients are unable to see their doctor regularly while one in four have difficulties obtaining the medicine they need.

Access to necessary medication is a big problematic with possibly fatal consequences. Cancer drugs are vital, but often inaccessible. In February 2020, the Pharmaceutical Association of Athens denounced the severe lack of specialised medicaments in Greece, amongst others drugs used to control the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients, but also for the chemotherapy itself. The Hellenic Cancer Federation (ELLOK) taking action, appealed on 22.1.2020 to the Ministry of Health to take action in order to normalise the disposal of medicines. Deficiency of basic antineoplastic drugs for cancer patients, according to the Federation, means serious delays and cancellations of chemotherapy that have led patients and doctors to despair. 

Many medicaments reach Greece but are then traded to other countries such as Germany who pay higher prices. Then there are medicines that are essential but so cheap that no company will import them to Greece. These should be covered by emergency imports, but the government agency responsible has no funds to pay for them and has stopped placing orders. At the same time, Greek commercial pharmacies are owed by the government, according to the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association (PFS), so many request payment for medication from patients up front.

“It is one thing to ask a patient to bring his own blanket to the hospital. And quite another to deny him a drug that means the difference between life and death.”

Persefoni Mitta, head of the Association of Cancer Patients in Macedonia and Thrace

During the Covid-19 pandemic things have got even harder. Today, the main problem faced is the long waiting lists for radiotherapy and surgeries. Zoe Grammatoglou, from the Association of Cancer Patients, volunteers, friends, and doctors in Athens, explains:

“In Attika Hospital in Athens the average waiting time for radiotherapy is currently 3-4 months. These delays existed also prior to the Covid-19 pandemic due to lack of staff in the hospitals. The average waiting time for surgeries is currently about one month. All appointments have been further delayed in public hospitals. It is very important to add, that in Greece there are no hospices for the care of persons in the last cancer stadium.”

Zoe Grammatoglou (13.04.2020)

In the case of refugees and migrants, there are even greater obstacles to access free medical care, especially since July 2019 when the right wing New Democracy party was elected. The new government refused to ascribe the Social Insurance Numbers (AMKA) to third country nationals. Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF) estimated in the beginning of this year that 55,000 protection seekers had remained without access to public health care, and specifically denounced the devastating situation for seriously sick children in the ‘hotspot’ of Moria.

“We see many children suffering from medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease, who are forced to live in tents, in abysmal, unhygienic conditions, with no access to the specialised medical care and medication they need.”

Dr Hilde Vochten, MSF’s medical coordinator in Greece

Only this month (April 2020) is a parallel system called PAAYPA supposed to function in which asylum seekers should be ascribed a temporary Social Insurance Number. It was announced that the system would start from 15 April onward but is not yet working as promised. 

Covid-19 has presented further barriers to healthcare as protection seekers reaching Greece must first register their claim for asylum in order to regularise their stay, and only then will they be eligible for a PAAYPA number. As the Greek Asylum Service has been closed since 13 March and will remain closed until at least 15th May, people seeking protection are unable to claim asylum. Therefore people with chronic and serious diseases may have to wait for months until they can access necessary healthcare. Until then, only emergency care is available.

Furthermore, for as long as protection seekers cannot claim asylum, they cannot access the cash allowance for asylum seekers, which means that they have to pay for all medicines themselves.

Protection seekers arriving from the land border in Evros region face a systematic lack of reception conditions as their asylum claims are usually not registered in the Reception and Identification centre (RIC) of Fylakio. Upon release they reach Thessaloniki or Athens themselves staying most of the times for weeks or months homeless.

At the same time, protection seekers arriving on the Aegean Islands are stuck among thousands of others in the infamous ‘hotspot’ camps of Moria (Lesvos), Vathy (Samos), Vial (Chios), on Leros and Kos living in highly precarious conditions in tents or overcrowded containers. Since recent changes in law, newcomers after March 2020 are regularly detained and face even greater gaps when it comes to accessing the public health care system.

UNHCR Greece highlighted the problems in Moria ‘hotspot’ recently:

“Abdul, 67, sitting on a stool outside his tent. In Afghanistan, Abdul had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Abdul said he had been treated with nothing more than paracetamol since arriving in the camp. Medical workers at Moria and the local hospital are overwhelmed. NGO and volunteer doctors work around the clock. Even so, often they can only attend to the most urgent emergency cases and even serious chronic conditions are left untreated.”

UNHCR, 21 February 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Greece has declared a nationwide lockdown from 23 March 2020. Meanwhile asylum seekers and refugees cannot #stayathome but have to #stayinthecamp. Until today, three refugee camps on mainland Greece have been locked down for a 14-day-quarantine as residents were diagnosed with Covid-19. Human rights activists all over the world demand that we #leavenoonebehind and evacuate Greek refugee camps and release people from detention. Calls have grown loud to relocate unaccompanied minor refugees from Greece and the first 62 have travelled to Luxembourg and Germany.

We must also raise our voices for the families who have been separated between two countries, who are victims of borders and restrictive migration policies such as the ones of Germany, who is systematically rejecting family reunification requests for more than two years.

Severe delays in accessing the urgent examinations and the necessary medicines, in order to provide for the medical diagnostics and adequate therapy/surgery for cancer patients can cost human lives.

STOP CUTS IN PUBLIC HEALTH CARE!

PROVIDE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WITH ALL THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO SAVE LIVES!

ACCESS TO FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL!

CLOSE THE CAMPS AND OPEN HOMES!

REUNITE ALL FAMILIES!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 13)

Author: A migratory girl

Note: This photo is not showing the persons described below in the letter.

I am the mother of two sick babies

Every mother raises up her baby being proud of it from the first day. When she kisses her baby, her baby kisses her back, and this is the absolute happiness for her. When the child grows, she is watching how it plays with others. She watches it grow and develop. These are the joys of a mother. 

I have raised my two children under the hardest conditions of life. I spent everyday praying for them. But while the body of my four year old girl grew, her brain did not follow along. And the same happened to my boy.

I love my children. But society humiliated us for them being different. I will never forget that everybody expected my husband to get married again, because I gave birth to mentally disabled babies.

I didn’t even know that I was getting married. I was so small, getting married was for me was like playing with my dolls, and it was the same for all other girls of my very young age.

When I started to learn about life as a couple, I realised that I was pregnant and when I hugged my Mariam* (names changed) for the first time, I became also aware of people’s talk – mostly the nearest persons around me. They called my baby “handicapped”, “abnormal”, and those words aggrieved me.

To find medical help for the growth problems of our child and escape their stigmatisation and the painful talks around our family we decided to escape, first to Iran and after to Turkey.

We tried to find appropriate treatment for our daughter for four years. For the first three years, no one could tell us the reason of her illness. Finally, they found out, that she had a brain damage.

My Mariam … she is full of emotions, full of love and affection, full of innocence. Her world is simple, but pure. Her view on life is different. Even when humiliating hands rest on her shoulders, she feels that they are innocent, hands full of sympathy.

When I see that she goes near flowers, I become happy that maybe she is getting pleasure from her environment, but then she becomes aggressive to them. Observing her in such scenes feels like thorns piercing my eyes.

Every mother wishes to see her baby crawl, but I couldn’t see it, since she was like a dead body in a corner until she became two years old. Every mother wishes to hold her baby’s hand and teach her how to walk, but I touched her weak joints and she whined and cried in pain.

Hey mothers on this earth! Hey you who have children!

I swear that I raised this girl 9 months in my belly. I swear that I desired death while giving birth. I passed a long period after her birth, eating dry bread with water, praying that she becomes better, that she becomes a happiness for us and happy herself.

I have lived with such pain. The Turkish doctors told us that there was no hope to treat Mariam.

And, then, in Turkey, another seed was planted and started growing. I have grown Amir* full of hope. Although looking at Mariam made me cry every day, my husband, cleared away my tears, put his hand on my belly and gave me hope. How many nights didn’t I cry for the health for my kids… but in this inhumane world, my souls screams haven’t been heard.

This mother, after 9 months of carrying her baby and 6 days of labor pains, was told once again the same news: She is having an unhealthy baby.

I passed two years full of hope, telling myself that maybe it was not true, that things may change. The doctors in Turkey told us that he had the same problem as Mariam. His brain will not grow and the muscles of his body will not work well. However, there was a treatment for him, especially because he was smaller that Mariam, but that treatment was not possible in Turkey. For that we needed to move on to a European country.

We had been living as refugees in Turkey for four years. We were beggars on everybody’s door. Every day we visited the doctors. However, we didn’t know their language, and we didn’t have an interpreter. We wandered for hours and days to find the hospitals as we didn’t know the addresses, only to understand, in the end, that we were in Turkey for nothing. We saw that all doors were closed to us. So we gathered everything, held our children’s hands and started our migration towards Europe.

Now we ask ourselves: Is this really Europe? Is this the continent of hope? Where is that bright light that we came here to find for our children?

No! Here our heart’s light didn’t turn on. Europe turned our hopes off and we are trapped in darkness.

For four months now every day we go to the doctors in Mytilene. It seems that our babies are pictures, that can be diagnosed by a quick look. Without having carried out any test, they tell us that our babies don‘t have any problems. It is as if you go to the doctor and tell him that you have a headache and the doctor tells you, “where is your pain, I cannot see it”.

No one answers our questions. We are like ping pong balls for them. They throw us from one hospital to another for nothing.

If you have parents, if you are a father or mother, if you love someone around you, you will understand us. You will understand how hard it is to see a seed of your body, growing to become a human that is just alive but doesn’t live. Every day looking at our children’s situation we wish to die.

We didn’t come here for money or luxuries but for the doctors. For us just having a nest to protect us from the cold and to live with our healthy children would be enough.

In search of just a nest…

Parwana

p.s. Thanks to my friend who shared her story with me. I wish she will find what she is seeking for!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 11)

Author: A migratory girl

Life of a Transgender

I am in Moria Camp.

Being a transgender means not to be of female or male sex, neither man nor woman – but of transgender sex. In a society like Afghanistan, being a transgender person is like being an extra-terrestrial, landing on earth from outer space. In Afghanistan people think of sex binary: only female and male are considered as “normal” genders.

In Afghanistan I used false names. I am Mina. This name gives an understanding that I am a girl. Yet, every day, during my whole being, my soul screams: “I am not a girl! Don’t cover your self with these clothes.”

I was born, in 1992, in Mazaresharef, the western province of Afghanistan. Being a girl in such a society carries guilt. Being a transgender born as a girl carries double guilt. So when I realised that I was not really a girl, my life became a nightmare. I felt myself separate from everyone, not belonging to any of the dominant sexes. Although I had a female body, I wanted to be with boys, behave like a boy. Playing with them, learning with them, speaking with them was pleasant for me.

While I was little, my family allowed me to do more or less what I wanted. But as soon as my female body developed, they didn’t allow me to be what I wanted to be, as I wanted to be. They were always thinking about their reputation and honour and not about what I wanted. When I became 18, I felt like a prisoner in the jail of my female body and I couldn’t tolerate anymore wearing girl’s clothes. So, I decided to take off my hijab and be what I wanted to be.

I loved one of my classmates and I was all the time with her. She didn’t know everything about me. She just knew my deep feelings for her and she thought that I was like all girls. Sometimes, she felt uncertain and would ask if I was ok. Soon, I decided to speak with her and with my family.

First I told her all my feelings, that I really loved her and wanted to be with her all my life. She was shocked, but she accepted me and wanted me to be what I wanted to be, not what others wanted me to be.

When I then spoke with my family, they told me that they would kill me if I did not do what they wanted. They also told me that there was a suitor asking for me and that he and his family were coming the next day to visit to ask for my hand. I should just dress like a lady and that was it!

I thought ok, I will do what they ask me to do. I will get married, but I won’t have any relation with him. Relations need feelings and I had no such feelings for him or any men. I thought, I will divorce him after two months, I promise!

I did the opposite. I went to a barber and cut off my hair like a boy. Then I wore a t-shirt with a pair of jeans and went home.  

My older sister was shocked to see me like that and told me to change my clothes immediately and wear a scarf. “Otherwise”, she told me, “our father will kill you”.

I put a scarf over my short brown hair and wore a skirt over my jeans.

The guests came and I got married, but I had no relation with him. We were together for two months and then I divorced.

When my father learned that I divorced, he beat me up. My eyes became black and purple.

“What is this,” he shouted. “Do you want me to kill you? What did I do wrong to you that you behave like this? What did you want, that I didn’t give you”, he shouted and continued to beat me.

“You didn’t give me my right,” I answered. “Did you ever ask me what I wanted? Did you ever ask how I felt? Did you ask anytime how I wanted to be? You know nothing about me,” I went on. “You were always thinking about your reputation and honour, not about your child.”

And as I was speaking my voice stopped. I was sobbing. “Your crying won’t change anything,” he cried, “I will decide about you.” He threw me out of the house and that was the last time I saw him.

It’s about six years that I have not had a single contact with my family.

My mother died some years ago and my two sisters got married. I went to them.

I couldn’t stay a lot with my sister. Her husband, my brother in law, was not happy with me and his behaviour towards me became worse and worse. I understood that I could not stay there any longer.

One day, my bother in law called me in the room and told me: “We are taking a decision about you. As you know, our financial situation is not good and we cannot spend money for you. We will tell you our decision tomorrow.”

I felt totally stressed out. I didn’t know what he was going to decide and how it was going to be. That night was like a nightmare for me. I couldn’t sleep. Yet, I was pleased with my new style. I was day-dreaming all night long in front of the mirror, brushing my short hair and changing my parting hair line.

The next day, the sun was shining and I was still day-dreaming. I wanted to become a lawyer to protect the rights of people, make the world a just world. But they burned my dreams, they burned my child and my adult dreams. They burned my hopes.

In the morning my brother in law asked me: “Will you change yourself?”

“No”, I replied.

“Won’t you change your decision?”

“No!!!”, I insisted. “I know who to be and how to be. Everyone has the right to chose.”

“We are not in Europe, never forget it”, he shouted. “I live in society, with many other people. Every day I hear them speak about you. Their words bother me. I don’t have any problem with you working in the municipality, or you going to university, but I cannot tolerate that people speak about you and us.”

I was living with my sister for 3,5 years. But, after this conversation with my brother in law, I decided to leave them and not to make them uncomfortable anymore.

I was sad, hopeless, upset and disturbed. I realized that I was alone. Alone in all respects. Totally alone in the whole world. I didn’t know what to do and where to go. I cried, and cried. I cried continuously.

I went to my classmate who had promised to give me money to escape from Afghanistan and become free — free to spin in the air for all to see me. No need to hide anymore.

I found a family that also wanted to go Germany. So I took the money from my classmate and I went with them to Farah, then to Nemroz, the nearest city to Pakistan’s border. Then we went to Pakistan, to a city of thieves, war and deception. When we were there, I didn’t know that I should dress like a girl and wear a hijab. I thought it would be more tolerant and open-minded than Mazar-e-Sharif. But when we arrived at Nemroz, I understood that I should cover all my body. Even then, however, everyone was looking at us as if we “women” were guilty of a crime. Then I understood that they were looking at us, because our men wore t-shirts and trousers, clothes very different from theirs, since they were all wearing long dresses and Tomban (traditional trousers). So our men changed their style and borrowed a Pirahsn and Tomban for themselves.

We were eight nights at the Pakistan border and this was the most difficult part of our journey. One night three men wanted to invader our tent while we were sleeping, but fortunately our men stopped them and had a fight with them. They left, but, after that, we couldn’t sleep all night.

We reached Iran, a country of racism and hatred, between Shiites and Sunnis, Iranians and Afghans. When we were there, we spent three days in the mountains. The weather was very cold, but no one of the smugglers helped the families that had children. I felt very sorry for the family of that baby who fell from the mountain and died.

Finally we arrived to Turkey.

The UNHCR helped me a lot in every respect. When they learned that I wanted to change my gender, they tried to collect money for the operation. Unfortunately there was no doctor to perform such an operation. They suggested that, I should go to Europe.

I spent two and half years in Turkey. After six months, I got a money card, and every month, I took 7 hundred and fifty Lire from PTT. But as I had to pay for rent, water, gas and electricity that money wasn’t enough for me. So I was peddling everyday at the corners of the streets. I do the same here too, just to earn 5€.

It’s so hard when somebody asks me, how many siblings I have. How can I say 6, when I have not been with them for so long? I share nothing with them.

Isn’t it wrong?

It’s very hard when somebody is looking at me strangely and I sense that he or she wants to ask me who and what I am.

I cannot say anything. I just hide myself, hide my gender, because of my feelings and I hide my feelings, because of others.

I passed the borders not to be hidden!

I risked my life not to be hidden!

I lost everything not to be hidden!

I did all of that in order to live in freedom, and I will continue my struggle until I achieve my freedom. Freedom for ever.

I hope that here I will be free!

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 10)

copyright: Salinia Stroux

Author: A migratory girl

Seeking for protection in a world of war

Where is safety?

In a camp with 14,000 refugees coming from different places of earth living under inhuman conditions one piled upon the other, the authorities can do very little to protect us. In fact, the miserable conditions they force us to live in, the inhuman laws and rules they subject us to create a small world of violence – a form of systematic violence against all of us.

If you live this violence day by day, you become part of it. In the end we humans, who are currently refugees in your Europe, must defend ourselves, our tents and our families against a generalised violence from above, but also from all sides. This violence can come come from any side now.

Where is safety?

If you live under conditions not worth for animals, violent conditions, then you can become violent any time yourself even if you share the same pain.

I feel powerless against this violence. I feel it crawling in our veins. I don’t want to become a part of this. I feel shame, when I see anger growing between people who suffer the same pain and shame when I feel anger rising inside me.

Instead of establishing friendly relations between each other as oppressed people that face the same discrimination, we become part of the reasons of fear. We escaped war, but it seems we are in war again. There is no way out. This is the war to survive the jungle called Europe.

It is so painful to witness women and children unable to sleep, afraid of violence. Their men must stay awake to guard in front of the tents, to protect their families all night. A piece of nylon, a zipper separates them from any intruder.

Today when, more than ever before, we need each other, we are afraid of each other. We don’t know from which side we could be attacked. We don’t know who is a friend. We have lost trust in life and people because there is no system to protect us and to make us feel like humans among humans.

Today instead of curing our wounds hand in hand, we put salt on each other’s wounds. We are trapped in a desert where no one will help us and no one will ask about our whereabouts.

I am responsible of myself. Within this violence, I have to do the first step to not become part of this. I have to criticise me first and start the change from inside myself, as no help will ever come from outside. We have to start from ourselves, from our families, our communities, to stop the violence and to raise up against this system.

I don’t want to brake. I don’t want to feel shame for my actions. I will stand firm against you violence and answer it with raised head and open fists. We crossed thousands of kilometres to find a life in safety, but it seems that there is no security here for us.

I stopped believing that we will find a place in peace. We have to find peace inside us and withstand the war going on outside. When violence erupts in Moria, when the police beat us, when people riot or even fight, we cannot count for protection by anyone. We have to find the solution to beat the monster.

Can you imagine yourself living in these conditions, having survived war, facing daily violence… Could you control yourself, stay calm and start peace if after all your fate was unclear for months and years while trapped in Moria?

Living under such anxiety and insecurity, we people are under permanent shock; we experience panic and trauma daily. We inflict injuries to ourselves and others. There are even kids hurting themselves and trying to commit suicide.

Where is safety?

Clubs, tear-gas, wooden sticks, stones and knives… Fists and kicks….

Our shields of protection are naked hands and our dignity. All our wealth is our blankets and our few warm clothes. Fear of losing even these keeps us near our tent 24 hours a day. But even if we decided to move away, where could we go? During the day, the knowledge that darkness is always near and fear of violence shakes our body.

For how long?

Wolves hunt in the darkness of night and the shepherds look after their flock. But here the wolves are the shepards, the shepards are the sheep and sheep turn into wolves.

No sleep. No dreams.

Where is safety?

How long are we going to search for safety by holding guns in our hands? These hands, which long for a pen not a gun!

Open your doors for our lives’!

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 9)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I am mother

I am mother of three children and  wife of a sick husband. He has a hernia on his backbone. He cannot walk. Neither should he get tired. So, I must look after my entire family on my own.

I am a woman, softer than flowers, but this life makes me harder than rocks.

Every day, as the sun rises, my mission starts. I wake up at 5am. I spread the blanket over my children. Then I go to get food. I walk 800 meters to the food line.  The line starts at 6:30am., but I want to be up front, the first one among a thousand women.

All this waiting for just 5 cakes and one litter of milk, which I suspect is mixed with water.

My boy has a kidney infection for five years now. He cannot tolerate hunger. I must go back as fast as I can.

When back, I gather all the blankets and spread them on the tent’s floor.

I sweep in front of my tent. With my own hands I made a broom from tree branches. I wet the soil with water to prevent the dust and dirt from coming inside.

I hardly finish and, once again, I must run to the food line for taking lunch. The queue starts at 11:30am although they distribute the food only at 13:00pm. So the whole waiting process, under unbearable conditions, starts for me again. In the line for hours, I do not know what happens to my children: Are they well? Are they safe? Has my son’s pain started?

We have been here for 200 days. And every week, we eat the same food – repetitive, tasteless, with no spices, little salt and oil. Three times a week beans, once meatballs, once chicken and once rice with sausage, which we don’t know for sure if it is Hallal. But I force my children to eat so they won’t stay hungry.

Securing meals is only one of my tasks. I must also wash my family’s clothes. As my children are all the day outside, their clothes get really dirty. Trying to clean the stains my hands get all chapped, the skin cracks. I need to rub them with oil every night.

I hang the clothes and, tiredly, I walk, once more, to the line for dinner—dinner only by name. Dry bread, one tomato and one egg. We must wet the bread to chew it. This is no dinner. When we have nothing to eat, we have to eat onion with bread (it’ s hot for children but we try to eat it cheerfully).

When my day finishes, I am really exhausted. But I do not want my family to notice. I fix my face. It should show no sadness, no fatigue. I hide my chapped hands from my husband and my children.

Sometimes, I don’t make it to the food line, because of the long queues, which I have to stand in to visit the clinic. I go there at 7:00am, but the process is very slow and, usually, every patient takes about 20 minutes inside. Then, the situation of my child gets worse than it normally is, because of his exposure to the sun and the polluted air outside. We need a specific permit to go get some drinking water.

Waiting in queue for four hours, without any toy or game, is very hard for children. It is equally hard for pregnant women like me. I know my husband is not happy when he sees me trying to manage on my own every day. But there is no other way. We don’t have anyone to help. Only ourselves. And he cannot.

I am my family’s strength, their courage, their hope. If I lose hope, who will stand by them? Who will help them? No one.

When the sun sets and darkness spreads, I am filled with fear. I fear also when it becomes cloudy and it rains. I fear the wind, I fear the cold. How will I protect my family? With what will I protect them, when we do not have anything?

When you don’ t have any resources, what are you going to do? I collect the blankets from the floor and spread the cardboards instead. The blankets are our covers at night and the carpets during the day.

I am a mother and wife. My children are the pieces of my heart and my husband is my blood. They are all I have in my life. But who am I for myself?

I don’t have time to even see myself in the mirror. I don’t have time to comb my hair once a day. I don’t have time to brush my teeth in 24 hours.  I can’t take care of my skin. I can’t be a woman .

I am content to sacrifice myself to make a comfortable life for my children and my love, my husband. Because I am a woman. It is my choice to be like this. Life is hard here and there is nowhere good to go.

I was given the documents to go to the mainland. But I canceled my ticket. On the mainland, the authorities will put us in a hotel, far from hospitals or clinics that we depend on. What am I going to do there with my sick child and my husband and myself pregnant? We need (specialised) doctors. We need protection and care. 

I am sorry that I don’ t have time to speak with my family as a mother, as a wife and as a friend. Because I don’ t have more power. I can’ t do more in 24 hours, than bring food, go to clinics, stand in lines.

I have had enough. I can’t continue anymore. Truly, if I didn’t have my children, I would have committed suicide. I live only because it is worth living for them. And now, I am pregnant and I carry one more life in me.

I am one for myself, but four for my family. Soon I will be five…

Parwana

p.s. For all the mothers!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 8)

Author: A migratory girl

My pen won’t brake, but borders will

I didn’t know that in Europe people get divided in the ones with passports and the ones without. I didn’t know that I would be treated as ‘a refugee’, a person without papers, without rights. I thought we escaped from emergencies, but here our arrival is considered an emergency for the locals. I thought our situation in the camp is an emergency, but in Europe the meaning of emergency for people like ‘us’ is to be dead.

Under the conditions we live exposed to heat in summer and rainfalls in winter, in the middle of garbage, dirt and sewage water, unsafe in permanent stress and fear facing the violence of the European Asylum System in this small world of 15,000 people – we are all emergency cases.

In fact in Moria, most arrived already with injuries in their souls and sometimes on their bodies. But here everyone gets ill, also the healthy, and our situation let our sicknesses turn to emergencies very fast.

Consider the story behind life in Moria hotspot: Having spent days, weeks or months walking up and down hills, over rocks and in between trees while living in a forest. Standing in queues for hours. Lost between what we think of as protection and what they create to hinder us reaching it.

In Europe we become like ping pong balls. The authorities shoot us from one office to another, back and forth without ending and without understanding what, where, why – which makes our situation worse and worse. Even the ‘success story’ of receiving finally a residence permit can’t end the discriminating looks we have to live with every day.

We are not another quality of people; another class of humans; another kind. We are different people with thousand different stories. What unites us is just that we had to leave our homes.

So stop treating us different. Stop lying and pretending that people are safe here. Stop saying Europe was a better place, when it is only better for some and not even accessible for others.

We are not treated like being a part of Lesvos’ population, like Greeks, like Europeans. Our destiny depends on a bureaucrats decision, on the economical value of a political decision in favour of migration or not, on the political mood dominant in the continent, on European strategies and plans. It is not build on the foundation of ‘us’ and ‘you’ being one kind.

I am a girl in a tent and I am thinking about this world as the days won’t pass by and I am waiting for the permit to leave this place.

My pen wont brake unless we won’t end this story of inequality and discrimination among human kind. My words will always brake the borders you built.

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 7)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Parwana

For a bread – for life

Life has normally ups and downs, but my life has always been flat. I have been trapped in a deep valley.

I am getting close to my lives’ end. At an age when every old woman needs to rest, I push my heart to work and earn money for my husband who suffers from heart problems and for our son.

Yet, instead of taking care of my husbands sickness, we must first prove his illness, they say. Our words don’t count, but only papers. Do we need to take out his heart to show he is ill?

After many medical tests we undertook with many difficulties, they told us that his illness should be certified by the doctors of the big hospital. The name of his sickness has to be written in words on a paper. They didn’t tell us, who will cove his transportation costs to go to town? Of course no one will!

When my husbands’ heart suffered, I desired my death as I could not help without a Cent in my pocket…

Days passed. I decided to build a tandoor (trad. oven) to bake break and sell it. I thought, I could purchase the necessary ingredients by borrowing some money from one of our relatives, who had a cash card. Just 0,50 euros, that’s all I needed! I touched the fifty cents and my old hands were shaking. Not only because of my old age. Not only because of my worry for my sick husband. They shake at the thought of the thousand year old olive tree that will burn under my tandoor. I tremble with the idea of the axe reaching the old tree. I can feel its crying out. Yet, I must have fire to bake my bread. …

But it is the rule of nature: Eat or be eaten.

How many troubles have I faced in hope of today’s bread to cure my husband. Yet, I need a cure too. My heart burns at the thought of the felled burning trees. But, I must ignore my heart, I must take care of my old husband. I must bake the bread!

With my old hands I shall prepare dough that needs powerful arms, but my arms are weak and shaking. I will do it! I will wake up at 4:00am! First, I will read my prayers. Then I will start the dough. Flour, oil, salt, yeast and water. I will mix them all together. And then. I will let the dough rest. Once raised, I will cut out small shapes and let them rest again. By 7:00am the pieces will be ready for the tandoor.

My son walks far away onto the hills to collect dry wood and start the fire. Oh, how the old trees turn into ashes. My son instead of going to school will go around trying to sell the bread when its ready. From the early morning until the late evening he will call people to buy it. There are a lot of bakeries nowadays in Moria and selling is very difficult.

Hundreds of steps, hundreds of moves, a lot of sweat in respect of life, in respect of the bread and in respect of the trees.

This is our situation and this is how we spend our days. No one knows about it. No one can see. I have always been in the flat valley. No ups in my life. My voice, my cries will never be heard. They are old and weak. My shaking hands will be never held by a stronger hand. In this age, they still have to hold my family.

I want to be a friend of nature, not its enemy. I want to pass my last days with my family in rest, to have some comfort, to sit for days in the shadow of the trees, not to burn them. But life is very ruthless. Sometimes we people are obliged to do things we don’t want to do it. See what life forces us to do…

What if someone in this world would hold my hands, so I could become an ally of nature walking away from the deep valleys, up to the mountains and the sun?

Parwana

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 6)

Author: A migratory girl

copyright: Salinia Stroux

I am a volunteer translator

I am the father of two children. I am the husband of a woman full of emotion. And above all, I am a human being. It is only one aspect of my current situation, that I am also a refugee, one among thousands of others.

Every day, I work for hours to help people access services and solve their problems. Every day, exhausted, I run 900m distance to eat lunch in hurry, and quickly come back to continue help more people.           

On these days where I am helping, my wife carries all the housekeeping responsibilities alone: She looks after the children, waits in endless lines to get some food for us all, washes clothes, puts some order in our abode. She does all these things with pleasure, so that I can help translate the troubles of the people standing in the sun for hours, in need for someone to communicate on their behalf.

What happens to our children when she needs to go away from our tent and leaves them in our neighbour’s tent? Are they safe? They will not be bothered by someone? They don’t miss us? Such questions torture me during all the day.

Today, I am sorry that my name is father. I am sorry, that I cannot be the good father – as I want, that I cannot be the good husband – as I want. I try to be a good father, and I try to help all the others who suffer the same conditions like us.

Today, while I was translating for a doctor the symptoms of a patient, when a familiar sound of crying, reached my ears. I did not have the heart to leave my work half done and check of the person belonging to that voice. So patiently, I continued, trying to keep my attention on the words I had to translate. Yet, that familiar sound set off  an explosion in my brain. Finally, when I was needed no more, stressed-out and anxious, I approached the door. 

What I had feared, a few minutes before, was indeed true. That was the sound of my wife’s crying as she tried to come inside to see the doctor. In her arms, there was our daughter, unconscious. The girl had been vomiting a lot in the tent, she explained, and when they started out for the clinic she fainted. The guard advised me that she should have taken our daughter to the Doctors without Borders (MSF). But I wasn‘t able to open my mouth to  utter the words. 

The sight of my wife‘s eyes, now blood-shot, and the sight my listless daughter in her arm left me speechless and my mind blank. I could not even explain that she was my wife. Only, when she started suddenly, to shake, did I come back to myself. So I turned to the nurse and did what I did for all the other patients: I described what had happened. The nurse went to have a look, only to tell us that it would have been better to bring her earlier. How could they have come all that distance faster? Did she not know our difficult living conditions? When she went to examine our child, I, too, went back to my work. I didn’t want people to stay waiting while sick like my child, in that bad weather.             

When my working time finished, we started out for our tent: my wife, my daughter and me. Feeling a bit better, my little girl lifted herself and asked for a juice. But…

However, the UNHCR, the European Union and Greece get thousands of Euros everyday. In spite of that, they do not hire enough translators to help sick people in clinics inside the camp of Moria and in the big hospital. Lack of translators, even in emergencies, is one of the most common problems of people.

To rely on migrant volunteer translators is shameful. Europe should feel shame. When even in its own hospitals nurses speak no English, how can they expect it from people who come from places where many kids have no access to proper education?

Parwana

p.s. Thanks to the father, husband, human being, volunteer translator, who shared his story and happens to be a refugee today!

Letter to the World from Moria (No. 5)

Author: A migratory girl

These eyes bother me!

I am young girl full of energy, power and self-confidence. Everyday there are a lot of voices inside me inviting me to let this energy out. BUT I am in Moria, between thousands of unclean eyes, that are looking to my body and not to my soul. These eyes bother me. I can not play volleyball. I can not even just walk straight down one path. My head should be down. When I am crossing the roads it is difficult like passing the borders for me.

200 metres to the toilets. 400 metres to the food queue. Again 400 metres back. Along this distance there are hundreds of eyes looking to me.

Girl-molesting is common, is daily. Even when they disturb us we are not supposed to answer them. We are not supposed to turn around. We can not say: ‘Don’t follow me! Stop bothering me!’

While washing my clothes I feel ashame, because boys are looking to me. I can’t look back to them, because they will misunderstand. So all sport places are used only by boys, all playgrounds are used only by boys. And we are locked inside.

Even men in the age of my father look to my body. I don’t know where I am. This doesn’t look like Europe here. When I was at school I learned that Europe is the mother of freedom, but I am living in the middle of eye violence. There are everywhere eyes. There is nowhere freedom. I am a prisoner here and this is the jail. I will not be able to forget these memories.

Instead of playing with other girls, I have to stay inside. Instead of walking proudly, I should walk with my eyes turned down. I am forced to feel shame and fear.

See, I am actually like you. I am thirteen years old. I am a young girl. But I have to wear a scarf because the look of my hair is a source of their lust, they say. Why I should cover my head, because they cannot control themselves? Why I should cover my head at all? Why I have to get limited, punished? I am a human being but they are looking to me like animals, like I was their prey. I am afraid of these wolves. I am afraid of losing my honour, the respect and I start feeling bad just because of my gender.

But it’s enough! Stand up girls! Stand up women! We are not their objects of lust! We are not the prey of wolves! We should shout out that we want to be safe! We want our rights! We want to look up!

Parwana

P.S. I am sorry for all of Moria‘s girls who suffer the same, and specially for my sisters.

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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email: infomobile.w2eu@gmail.com

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