Greece has been in lockdown since November 7. This also applies to the refugee camps. According to Joris van der Meere, things are a bit different than on the main land.

Joris (20 years old) worked this summer at a refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos. He had a gap year and went to Greece, initially to take a holiday. But after a month of touring the different island. He went to work at a refugee camp on Samos. He saw that the measures were tightened and how the country went into lockdown. “When I arrived at the refugee camp, the refugees were able to move around fairly freely. People were allowed to go to the supermarket and to play football, for example. But that freedom has diminished sharply in the last two months. “The refugees had to wear masks at the camp, the football fields were closed and there was a curfew, says Joris. “Keeping your distance is impossible, because there is simply no room at a refugee camp. I was constantly wearing a face mask and the employees at the camp were not allowed to touch the people. As an organization, we also made sure that everyone can disinfect their hands. Van der Meere says the refugees are different on the virus. “One refugee believes that the virus does not exist, the other is very afraid of it. What you can see is that people are not busy with a “virus”. Those families have other things on their mind. For example, they have other diseases such as scabies, in their view corona is not a bigger threat than the diseases that were already at the camp. ”

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Source: Joris van der Meere

Lockdown

The new lockdown measures have major consequences for the refugee camps, says Joris. “The people at the camp received ninety euros per person from the government every month. They have reduced that to forty euros per month. A lot less. They are no longer allowed to leave the camp and they must stay in the tent as much as possible. The refugees have seen life get worse and worse. ”

Andreas works at Project Elea, an organization that, among other things, provides enough clothing and food for the refugee camps. He tells that many refugees do not follow the rules. “The intention is for everyone to wear masks in the camps, but 50 percent of the people actually do. Yet there are not many infections. Because everyone is isolated in his or her tent, and because there are many other diseases, hand soap is often used. We had to refill the hand soap machine every day. The refugees are therefore generally not afraid of corona. They are more concerned about their asylum application or job.” Andreas is currently traveling a lot between the camp. He sees that the people are losing hope. “Many people already had little hope of a normal life. But the corona crisis has reduced that even further.”

COVID-19 measures in Greek refugee camps

Sjors Venhuis worked last summer on a refugee camp on Samos. ”They didn’t do anything against COVID-19,” says Sjors. Faris Al-Jawad is a communications manager for Doctors Without Borders. He says that social distancing is  impossible in the refugee camps.  They talk about how things are going now, during COVID-19, in the refugee camps.

What about the Greeks

Organizations from all over the world are trying to improve the refugee situation. All eyes are on the Greek islands. Everyone has an opinion about the problem, but little is heard from the Greeks. In addition to the statements of world leaders and aid organizations, it is important that the Greek inhabitants also tell their side of the story.

“Tourists often don’t know where refugees are.”

Greece is a famous holiday destination. Yet tourists are not always aware of the refugee situation.

Petra Kok, press officer at TUI: ‘People often don’t know where the refugees are in Greece, so they don’t take into account where they are going. “I don’t know exactly where the refugees are, but that doesn’t really matter to me because it doesn’t bother me anyway,” says Gitte Michiels, who traveled to Zakyntos last summer.

“Refugees won’t hurt you, so I don’t think you’ll notice when they get there,” said Gitte Michiels. “I think of Greece; go on holiday and enjoy. So I don’t take refugees into account, “says Marleen, she also visited the island of Zakyntos in the summer. “Nor do I know where the refugees are.” “Suzie Vermunt visited Kos last summer. “I know there are Greece refugees, but I don’t take it into account. Refugees are also just people and I find it especially intense for them. “” Also, Suzie thinks it is rather “silly” that she is on vacation there while refugees are surviving there.

Living in a refugee camp in times of covid-19

Living in a refugee camp in times of the coronavirus is thrilling, says Oumaima Houmada. She lives in Vathy camp, on Samos island, for a year now.

“I think it’s great that Greece helps refugees, even in times of crisis.”

Greece is very divided in thinking about the refugee camps, according to political expert Rallis Angelidis. Some Greeks gave their opinion about the refugee camps. 

“Home for a Day was the project that we started when we were bringing families to our restaurant and giving them meals, clothes, blankets, and baby supplies.” Nikos Katsouris works at ‘Home for All’ and he began the project; ‘Home for a Day’. He tells that he is against the refugee camps: “We believe that the conditions inside the camps are unacceptable and not how we would want anyone to live. However, we will always support the people that are living inside the camps.” He also tells that there needs to be a more permanent solution to the problems, instead of the quick short-term solutions. “This camp was built very quickly due to the fires in Moria so not all the required infrastructure was there. Now the authorities are in the process of building up the electricity, water lines for showers and trenches for the rainwater.”

Source: Nikos Katsouris

Aris Angelidis is half Greek, half Dutch. He is the son of Rallis Angelidis and he is against the refugee camps. “The refugee camps are a major hindrance to the Greek population on the islands, causing regular conflict between the Greeks and the refugees. They cause problems for the Greeks on the islands. For example, because they cut down trees or light a fire.” The Western European countries must take in more refugees, only then can the “problem” be solved, according to Aris. “You only get refugee status in the nearest safe country when you flee your own country. This means that countries such as Lebanon, Israel, Turkey and Morocco are more likely to accept refugees than European countries. But refugees naturally want to get the financial support that you only have in Western European countries, so Middle Eastern and North African countries skip them. I think such countries, which are closer than Europe, should take in a large number of refugees.”

The Western European countries must take in more refugees, only then can the “problem” be solved

Loanna Tastsidis is also Greek and supports the refugee camps. “I like that Greece is open to people who need help. It’s tricky because some people might think you need to think about yourself first in a crisis. But I still think it is nice that the refugees have somewhere to go, even in times of crisis.”

“Greece does not have the financial capabilities and infrastructure to keep the refugees on the islands.” So, says Yannis Evangelou, a Greek man who lived on Samos. “I am against the refugee camps, because the Greeks on the islands suffer a lot from the refugees, there are now more people on all islands than possible. The camps are overcrowded.” That is also a reason for Evangelou to be against the camps. “The situation in which people are in the camps is inhumane. You shouldn’t do that to anyone.”

Source: Nikos Katsouris