Are You Syrious? — Weekly Digest (25/10/2017–31/10/2017)
Summarized: this week’s reports about the refugee situation in Greece courtesy of Are you Syrious?.
According to the Vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmerman, who visited Greece during last weekend, their experience “has shown that it’s hard to get the support we provide in the spot where it is needed most.” This official was one of the main protagonists in the EU-Turkey deal and now he says that people whose asylum applications have been processed should be returned to Turkey as stipulated in the agreement. He also said:
“Migrants must stay on the islands, despite the difficulties, because their transfer to the mainland would send a wrong message and create a new wave of arrivals.”
Meanwhile the protesters in Sappho Square on Lesvos are protesting for more than 10 days. Those in the square are calling attention to the unjust detention of refugees on the Aegean Islands, and the inhumane conditions in the camps. Multiple protesters have been engaging in a hunger strike for the past few days, and on Monday 30/10/2017 according to the activist Arash Hampay, three of them had to be taken to the hospital for medical treatment.
- A refugee attempted to take his own life after his asylum case was rejected, as he feared deportation. The man had climbed onto the roof of a building and stood on the ledge for a while. Ultimately he was talked out of jumping.
- The Chios Eastern Shore Response Team continues to share horrifying stories form the Vial camp on the island. A doctor from the SMH Rescue team went to visit an 8 month pregnant woman, who had been left to sleep on the bare ground in a tent in the camp alongside her young daughter.
- The fact that the most vulnerable people are left in such inhumane conditions is another sad reflection of the lack of action from the UNHCR and Greek government and authorities to alleviate the crises on the islands.
- Vial center is overcrowded, refugees have to stand for over two hours to get food, which is appalling. Rats run freely among the containers, causing critical sanitary conditions. Medical care is limited and insufficient, there’s no hot water or running water in general, which makes the situation even worse. Not to speak of electricity, AYS reports.
- Weather conditions are also getting worse so when it rains, the camp becomes a swamp and the residents are forced to sleep out in the cold, due to the shortage of containers, tents, and blankets.
- AYS reports that in October so far some 2,400 people were able to leave the islands — more than 3,600 were registered.
Although the island of Samos is still overcrowded with refugees who are facing terrible condition and terrifyingly expecting winter to come, there started one of the bright stories.
AYS reports that Said Azim Karimi (18), from Mazar-el-Sharif, Afghanistan, whom they talked to a few months ago, like many others had big projects and goals for his life, the main one to become a pilot; but, like many others, his dreams were interrupted by the harsh reality he had to face once in Europe.
“When I came to Samos, I thought I had come to a jail. The camp where we lived for the next nine months was like a jail. At the beginning, we lived in something like a cabin with 40 or 50 people inside. And the situation was fighting, people injured, going to jail… and every night like that.”
Despite all these difficult situations Said always kept smiling and looking ahead positively, confident that things would get better one day. He started to take English and Greek classes to improve his skills and increase his chances of reaching his life goal.
Said and his family were finally moved to Athens, living with other families in ridiculously cramped accommodations and having to attend high school again to receive the legal documents he needed. Meanwhile, he kept practicing his English and started taking music classes. After only three months of violin lessons, he was invited to play with the orchestra of El Sistema, a world-famous music school. And he fitted in perfectly, playing in front of several thousands of people at the Odeon Herodotus.
Now his ultimate dream was to become a pilot. “I have dreamt about flying ever since I can remember. The funny thing is that I have flown only once, and that was on the journey from Kabul to Herat, at the Iranian border. We had to take a flight because the road in that area is very dangerous. I felt great on that flight and sat by the window.”
And now he has finally made a first step toward this dream! On the 27th of October, the US Embassy in Athens granted 78 refugees access to a scholarship program for for higher education. The students have been enrolled at three different American institutions in Greece. And one of them is Said.
“The beneficiaries of the program will attend preparatory English classes, courses in various fields based on their previous knowledge and academic training, and fundamentally, they will have the opportunity to continue their education and acquire skills and credits that they will be able to use either in Greece or in any other country they move to in the future,” the embassy said in a press release.
This represents a great opportunity for these young refugees to pursue their goals in life and allow them look at their future challenges with positive eyes and new energy.
“My father has pushed me to pursue my dreams all my life and to work hard to fulfill them. Thanks to him, I have a dream. He taught me not to give up on whatever I want to be. And I will try to be just that. And this is all I am doing.”
- In Patras three people have been injured after they were stabbed by a group of assailants. According to the Patras Times, the attackers came by car to an abandoned factory, where the people resided, and started attacking them. While two had slight injuries, one had to be transported to hospital in serious condition.
- Tempo24 (via Keep Talking Greece) additionally reports that recently people in Patras have been seen jumping into the sea, trying to swim to the ferry to Italy and then enter it by climbing the anchor chains or using the hanging ropes. In the case reported by the media, a sailor forced them to swim back to the shore.
- While people are struggling sleeping outside on the island, part of the available UNHCR accommodation remains free. According to the last UNHCR report, almost 90% of accommodation on the island, and over 87% on the mainland is occupied.
- Only a third of the nearly 3,000 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children currently in Greece are receiving proper shelter and care, UNICEF warned. One of the most striking pieces of evidence that the authorities must do something to improve the protection of the youngest is the fact that the reception facilities for unaccompanied children on the islands are now hosting twice as many as they were designed for, compromising the safety and well being of the children. For those children who have family elsewhere in Europe, UNICEF is urging other European countries to step up family reunification.
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