Sunset at Skaramagas refugee camp

Back in Greece

I’m back in Athens but to a very different situation. When I was here last, it was in Piraeus, in a chaotic make-shift camp. The camp in Piraeus is no more (thankfully!) so today I’m back working with the drop in the ocean in Skaramagas refugee camp. Skaramagas is an official refugee camp run by the navy and is one of the best refugee camps in Greece (or so I’ve heard). Most of the refugees here live in caravans that are approximately 20 m2 which is shared between 2 families. Each family has 7m2 and there is a shared bathroom. The caravans have air-conditioning (which is a god-send in this heat!) and electricity.

There are approximately 3000 refugees in Skaramagas and there is a mix of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans where Syrians are the majority. The camp is located by the water but it is a sea of concrete, there is no shade, no trees, and no greenery.

I’m happy to find a lot of the refugees from Piraeus in the camp, seeing a lot of familiar faces that all agree that things are better! Most of the refugees in the camp are now registered and are receiving a small stipend so that they can buy some of the basics things themselves. With this, their lives have completely changed. In Piraeus (when I was there), their daily lives consisted of standing in line: 2 hours to get tea in the morning, 2 hours to get breakfast, 2 hours to get lunch, 2 hours to get non-food items such as soap, pampers for the babies, 2 hours to get clothes and finally 2 hours for dinner. For a lot of them it meant 10–12 hours in a queue every day. Here in Skaramagas they might not stand in line at all!

Unfortunately one thing that hasn’t changed is the uncertainty. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them. Will they be allowed to stay in Greece? Will they be able to relocate to another European country? Will they be able to join their husband/son/brother in Germany/Belgium/Sweden? How long will it take until they know? In the meantime, will their children be able to go to school? Can they work? As one of the refugees said: “If someone could just tell me: you will stay here for 9 months, I could manage; it’s the not knowing that is hard”.

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