Reception Camp Greece?

Since our two trips to mainland Greece, we have seen first hand how the situation has evolved.
In particular, there has been the almost complete closure of the Greek-Macedonian border, meaning that onward journey for refugees is not possible. It is the non-Syrian and non-Iraqi refugees that have little choice but to return to the camps in Thessaloniki or Athens. They are stranded. They have very little prospect of moving forward along the Balkan Route. To exacerbate this problem, the arrivals onto the Aegean islands greatly exceeds the departures of people past Greece. The camps in Athens and Thessaloniki are overcrowded and they find it difficult to provide everyone with basic supplies such as sleeping bags. This has lead to the rest stops around the motorway becoming a gathering place for people as the buses from Athens are selective of their passengers. This is done in order to limit the numbers of people arriving at the border town of Idomeni. As seen before, closures with a large number of people gathered leads to tensions rising. However, restricting the bus transportation has not fulfilled its purpose. People who have waited days at rest stops, spending money and making no headway, have begun to walk the hundreds of kilometers to the border. They walk along the roads, often leading to blocked traffic, and an inevitably stressful situation.
To prevent further chaos on the mainland, the Greek government has limited the number of refugees allowed to travel on the ferries. Yet this will eventually lead to a backlog that will repeat the images and numbers of last summer.
Greece has been isolated from Europe in this respect. The country, already digging itself out of an economic crisis, has neither the funds or capability to deal with the refugee crisis alone. Now, Europe speaks of reviving the Dublin agreement, meaning Greece will absurdly and solely be left to deal with this crisis. It is due to a lack of European solidarity that the situation is deteriorating here, that people cannot continue and that Greece has been left completely segregated.

The last months

For the last six weeks we have been building up Proti Stassi, both in reputation and structure. Now it is time for a review of our activities and of the general situation on the island.
We finished these winter months by solidifying our relationships with other groups, including the locals, through our common goal.
Arrival numbers have declined in the North, yet we continue to have daily boats in our area when the weather permits. Usually in the early hours, we work with land and sea support provided by other NGOs in order to bring the people from the beaches to the Cheese Factory. There, we continue to provide clothing, tea, snacks, toilet facilities and bus transportation. The number of people arriving each day varies greatly- some days only fifteen, others up to 300. As before, the ethnicities are different: Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi or Syrian/Iraqi Kurds are the majority, however, in the minority are Pakistanis, Iranians, Yemenis, Somalians, Moroccans and Palestinians.
After people have received primary care at Proti Stassi, we organise closely with MSF for further transport. Other groups we cooperate with include the CK Team, Cadus, SeaWatch, Dirty Girls and MarhaCar.
Our work with the CK Team has greatly intensified recently. When aid is needed at the Cheese Factory, ranging from translations to helping with storage, they always offer their time. We have also arranged first aid courses together as well as regular group meetings, both of which are held at the Cheese Factory. In these meetings, SeaWatch and Cadus are occasionally present in order to develop our sea to land correspondence. In early February, SeaWatch and Cadus decided to live and operate from Tsonia, a nearby port. Given our connection to these teams, we contributed to a smooth and accepted relocation by introducing them to the local fishermen, who have since shown the two groups the most common landing areas around Tsonia.
Besides these groups, we have also been in constant contact with MarhaCar, an NGO which distributes clothing and blankets from warehouses to (transit) camps as well as Dirty Girls who wash and reuse wet clothing.
In addition to this daily work, we are widening the communication between volunteers and islanders. For the islanders, life has changed drastically since the beginning of the refugee crisis and very often their work is unappreciated. After a boat carrying 200 people landed the other day, they were there towing it into the port and working alongside three other volunteer groups. As the refugees were all transported to the Cheese Factory, the volunteers left as well, leaving the locals with a very large sinking boat and everyone’s waste in their harbor. Yet, Borderline tries to implement its resources in a way that the locals are not left with a negative impression. This includes having a mutual understanding of our goal through constant communication as well as providing jobs.
Within the next few weeks Borderline will become a registered NGO in Greece and be able to provide legal security for both volunteers and employed locals.
We are also in the process of preparing for summer. Although the situation is unstable, if the number of arrivals begin to match those of last summer, it is vital we are ready. At the moment, Europe is trying to decrease the number of arrivals on Greece through tighter border controls. This has been a long term discussion and may take months to implement, if at all successful.
As Europe’s external borders struggle to lessen the arrival numbers, its internal ones have been more successful along the Balkan Route. Therefore, we are expecting and preparing for more substantial stays on Lesvos and at the Cheese Factory in particular.
We play our part on Lesvos gladly and are proud to work alongside so many NGOs, organisations and islanders. Our goal is to ensure that the situation on Lesvos is at its best for all arriving refugees as it is currently the most evolved area on the Balkan Route. Though never optimal, we endeavor to keep the island this way for as long as possible.