Refugee Camps in Greece

Prisoners of Europe.

Where are the refugees from Idomeni? What happened after the eviction of one of the largest refugee camps in Europe since WWII. What is the current situation in Greece?

Unfortunately the fate of 60.000 refugees that are currently stuck in military camps in Greece has completely vanished from media and public interest. In the past few months, I have spent a lot of time volunteering on the ground. I have witnessed the horrible conditions in the official and government-run camps all over the country where people were transferred to after the eviction of Idomeni and all the other informal camps. Here is the full story:

Refugee Camps in Greece

Idomeni Eviction day of Idomeni: The refugees are put on busses and transferred from Idomeni to more than 60 official government camps all over the country. Many people don’t know where they are brought until they arrive at the location.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Out of sight, out of mind: Most of the official camps are in deserted industrial areas keeping the refugees away from any social infrastructure and the local Greeks community.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Preregistration: All refugees are registered on arrival by greek military.

Refugee Camps in Greece

„Life” in darkness: Most of the official military camps are hidden away in abandoned and dirty old factory warehouses. No dignity.

Refugee Camps in Greece

More than 1200 people are livíng in Vasilika.

Refugee Camps in Greece

All camps are guarded by military and police. Media and free volunteers are not allowed inside.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Fences, borders, barbed wire.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The military camp Oreokastro is hidden away on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. So hard to find you need the exact GPS coordinates to locate it. With the help of families and friends from Idomeni, who are sending us their locations, it takes us days to find all the camps and to get an overview of the conditions inside.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The horrible Softex camp is a symbol of the Greek governments incapability or unwillingness to adequately provide the 60.000 refugees with the most basic needs. 1380 refugees are living here under substandard conditions, most of them from Syria. The camp is one of the biggest camps on the mainland.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Isolated.

Refugee Camps in Greece

I am receiving many desperate calls and messages from families and friends from Idomeni. Ahmed and his family were brought to Softex and asked us to come. Luckily we find a hole in the fence and manage to get inside to get some impressions of the living conditions ourselves.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The food is scarce and bad. Animal-like treatment describes it best.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The Greek government began with the construction of Softex camp only two weeks before the eviction of Idomeni. On the gravel area outside there were only a few empty tents. According to reports from refugees the busses had to circle up to 5 hours around the industrial area to buy more time for setting up enough tents.

Refugee Camps in Greece

No place to grow up.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Camps or holes?

Refugee Camps in Greece

A girl asks me for my smartphone. She was separated from her boyfriend during the eviction of Idomeni and wanted to find out to which of the new camps he got transferred to.

Refugee Camps in Greece

According to refugee reports, in the first weeks in Softex there were only 6 toilets for 1300 people and no showers. In the meantime more sanitary infrastructure has been added, yet still barely meeting official UN standards.

Refugee Camps in Greece

„We miss Idomeni.“ I keep hearing that sentence a lot. In Idomeni, unlike the new military-run camps, people had the possibility to organize their daily live with self-determination. Furthermore, local and international support structures had free access to the site. This made the every day struggle more bearable for the people staying there, as there were volunteers and activists around that could help out with every day needs.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Left alone and forgotten by Europe.

Refugee Camps in Greece

“You cannot live here, only exist.”

Refugee Camps in Greece

There are bad camps and extremely bad camps. Softex is extremely bad. A fellow volunteer tells me: “When we first arrived, there was broken glass and thick dust all over the floor. The walls continue to be riddled with asbestos, with children and pregnant women living inside. This isn’t an informal camp. This is a government led operation. The fact that the Greek state, as well as European governments deem this an acceptable solution for housing refugees is unacceptable.”

Refugee Camps in Greece

It lacks everything: sanitation, hygiene, food, shelter improvements, water & mosquito defence.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Scorching summer heat up to 40 degrees makes this place a living hell.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Only in the evening hours the temperatures are bearable.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Laundry day.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Camp life.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Lives at risk: A tent catches fire.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Trapped.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The big boredom. Most people have been living under substandard conditions for many months now. The official procedures are extremely slow, characterized by long waiting times, additional bureaucratic procedures, sporadic contact with the authorities. According to Amnesty, at the current rate of relocation, it would take 18 years for Greece’s 60,000 refugees to be resettled. (June 2016).

Refugee Camps in Greece

Dump yard.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Playground.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Emotional reunions. In Idomeni refugees could count on the overwhelming support of more than 400 free volunteers who helped out with every day needs. Idomeni was terrible, but there was a community there. Refugees and volunteers, it all felt like one big family. After the eviction, finding and seeing each other again has become very difficult.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Sindos Karamanlis camp is set-up in an abandoned leather factory.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Through an NGO working on ground, we are able to visit some of the families.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The camp is surrounded by swamps. There are no shops or inhabited areas anywhere nearby.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Mosquitoes are a big issue in all the camps, but in Sindos it is absolutely unbearable .

Refugee Camps in Greece

bunker

Refugee Camps in Greece

Going for a walk.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Laundry.

Refugee Camps in Greece

In many camps, sinks do not drain the water and garbage is not taken away for days, creating the perfect habitat for mosquitos and other insects. .

Refugee Camps in Greece

Clean-up.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Sindos Karamanlis is one of the better camps. At an early stage an NGO was allowed to assist and help with improving the living conditions.

Refugee Camps in Greece

More than 60.000 refugees are currently living in Greece, most of them in substandard conditions. Greece alone cannot be blamed, of course. Mismanagement of resources and incompetence of authorities aside, country has been in the midst of one financial crisis or another for several years. This is why a large part of the blame falls on the structural failures of the EU. For instance, of the 160,000 refugees who were to be resettled from Greece and Italy to other EU countries, only a bit over 5,000, in other words 3%, have been relocated to other countries. Europe has the resources to care for these people, and yet it seems that policy makers spend most of their time sending insincere condolences unbacked by concrete action. (For further info read MSF report „Greece in 2016: vulnerable people left behind.“) (

Refugee Camps in Greece

Family day.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Being child.

Refugee Camps in Greece

It took a long time and is a bureaucratic nightmare for a few selected NGOs to be allowed to help improve the situation inside camps.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Empty eyes.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Daycare.

Refugee Camps in Greece

The camps of broken promises: The reality at these sites contradicts the promises of better living conditions than Idomeni, made by the authorities and the UNHCR.

Refugee Camps in Greece

This holds especially for many remote camps on the countryside and in the mountains. Winter is coming and people will be freezing in tents if nothing changes any time soon.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Lack of water: On my visit in Nea Kavala hardly any water ran out of the taps.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Long distances.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Rejected.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Overcrowded camps are leading to problems.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Homeless.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Left alone.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Refugees.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Frakaport camp lies next to Thessaloniki sedimentation tank. The smell is terrible and there are swarms of mosquitoes.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Lost and forgotten: On 24.05.2016 Idomeni, one of the biggest refugee camps in Europe since WWII was evicted. After the eviction international media lost interest and the topic has disappeared from the news since. Yet there are still 60.000 refugees living in Greece below minimum standards.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Some refugees in Greece will have to wait until next April for their next interview. After pre-registration and first interview they are now waiting for an SMS with the date and time of their second interview with the Greek Asylum Service or to make a full registration. According to legal experts of the “Mobile Info Team” from the date of that full registration, people that ask for relocation may hope for something between 3 to 6 months, people who ask for family reunification may face up to 11 months.

Refugee Camps in Greece

Trapped in Greece.

Liste aller Camps in Griechenland.

4 Responses to Out of sight, out of mind.

  1. Anneli Faust says:

    Hallo, ich bin heute morgen erst über diesen Text gestolpert. Ich gehöre zum Verein “Leverkusen hilft”, der eine Hilfslieferung an Vasilika geschickt hat. Ich würde gerne diesen Bericht auf unserer Seite verlinken. Es wäre schön, wenn sich ein deutsch/englisch-sprachiger Kontakt zum Lager herstellen ließe, damit wir weitere Hilfslieferungen genauer zusammenstellen können. Gleichzeitig wäre ein persönlicher Kontakt auch gut, um weitere Spendengelder zu sammeln.
    Es ist traurig, dass wir dieses Leid nicht verhindern oder beseitigen können. Wir können nur versuchen, es etwas zu lindern. Ich hoffe, meinen Teil dazu beitragen zu können…..

    • admin says:

      Hallo Anneli, vielen Dank für deine Nachricht und eueren tollen Einsatz! Das ist großartig. Ich schicke dir gerne gleich per e-mail ein paar Kontaktdaten, die ich von Vasilika habe. Liebe Grüße

  2. eva baehren says:

    Hallo David, erinnerst Du Dich ! Das 1. Mal trafen wir uns im Parkhotel, Du hattest grad die Lichtaktion im Blick.
    Dann bei Ragheds Familie……darüber hatten wir auch messenger Kontakt.
    nun versuch ich Dich schon seit einigen Tagen zu erreichen…aber ich habe kein Glück…..
    ich würde gern Deine Erlaubnis für Deine hervorragende Reportage über die Camps zur Weitergabe an ’50ausIdomeni'(website) und an die Münsteraner Initiative ‘Münster – Stadt der zuflucht”, die ich mit ins Leben gerufen habe. Wir wollen 368 Refugees nach Münster bringen – auf legalem, sicheren Weg. 368 Jahre ist der Westfälische Friede alt…
    herzlichen Gruss
    Eva, ab 1.11. wieder in Saloniki und Softex und Vasilika….und….

    • admin says:

      Hallo Eva, natürlich erinnere ich mich! :) Leider war ich die letzten Wochen 24/7 in Griechenland eingespannt und hatte nur wenig freie Minuten. Aber ich habe dir mittlerweile auf Facebook auf deine Nachricht geantwortet. :) Tolles Projekt was ihr da macht!

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