On new year’s day, I received the following messages, accompanied by the below images:
The situation of the refugees in Greece is very poor. It gets worse day by day. Therefore, we call on the European Union, the United Nations and international and humanitarian organizations to open the borders. Because the Greek citizens themselves are sleeping in the streets, so how are the refugees supposed to live.
We ask you and your organizations to save us from the alleys of Greece .. because living here is very difficult especially for the families … support us …
Please explain the story of my poor, distressed son, because his future is lost.
I go to Oinofyta camp every week with a small group of people to offer legal support and information. The camp is run by IOM and they do not allow us to enter. We drive from Athens and we wait for people at the gate.
It is shocking how acutely ‘vulnerable’ everyone we meet at Oinofyta is. ‘Vulnerable’ is a legal category, and if you fall into it, the law says you are entitled to “special guarantees”. Everyone we meet at Oinofyta would be categorised as ‘vulnerable’ or already has been, having been transferred as such from the island hotspots. We meet only heavily pregnant women, families with children of all ages and people with serious physical and psychological health conditions. Yet there is no special treatment at Oinofyta, only hellish conditions.
It was Karim* who sent me the photos and the messages. When I first met Karim, he and his family were sleeping on the floor in a corridor of the camp, waiting to be registered. He fled Iraqi Kurdistan with his wife and their four children, aged 2, 6, 8 and 10 years old. The family were initially sent to Vagiohori camp but were then told it was closing and that they had to leave. They travelled with other families to Oinofyta where they found conditions so horrific that they went back in search of Vagiohori. Vagiohori was no more, leaving them no choice but to return to Oinofyta.
Karim told me that his 8 year old son Mahdi has serious brain damage. When I met Mahdi he was sucking a dummy. Karim explained that he cannot do simple things like dress himself. Karim told me that Mahdi had started to have violent tantrums more frequently since arriving in Greece, and when he started he couldn’t be calmed. Mahdi’s distress does not seem surprising, given the unsafe and unsanitary conditions in Oinofyta.
Consistent with other’s testimonies, Karim said that there was not proper healthcare within Oinofyta camp. The specialist children’s doctors that Mahdi needs are an unaffordable train ride away in Athens, and IOM do nothing to help him get there.
Our team are doing what we can for Karim and his family but in the mean time they languish in Oinofyta. Their ‘vulnerability’ although evident, is ignored.
* all names have been changed
All photographs were taken by Karim.
Read more about Oinofyta here.
Please leave a comment if you are a journalist or know of journalists who would be interested in writing more about Oinofyta. Residents desperately want the conditions in the camp to be exposed.