Working With Minors at MSF

Recently, we have begun to work daily at the Doctors Without Borders camp in Mantamados. Together with Praxis and Save the Children, the camp has taken on seventy-five minors. About three weeks ago these teenagers were chosen to be taken from Moria to another camp. The aim was to give them a temporary place to live that was not in the confines of Moria which has been proven unsafe time and time again. As volunteers in the camp we play sports with them, organise trips to the beach and make group activities such as art and cooking. Many of the teenagers also participate in English classes every morning. Most of our days consist of talking with them and although the question comes up many times, no one is able to answer what will happen next. As far as we know, Praxis is working to place all of the minors in homes on the mainland, yet this process may take a while. Thus far, about twenty minors have been moved to Mytilini to a house under the care of Praxis and eventually all of them will be moved and separated to housing. The next step to the mainland seems very far away, but at least it will be forward. All minors that arrived in Europe before their 18th birthday cannot be deported. Some have relatives in other European countries, although many will probably stay in Greece. Because of this, the teenagers are very eager to learn Greek, especially through watching Greek news.

The Last Six Weeks

The last six weeks have been marked by uncertainty as to the development of the situation on the island. On April 4th, the first deportation of refugees took place, followed by a second a few days later. This presented refugees with the only option to apply for asylum in Greece as to avoid being deported to Turkey.
At the same time, the number of arrivals has almost dropped to zero, which means our initial project, the Cheese Factory, is not in use, apart from two landings in the past weeks. However, the costs for the factory are minimal and should the EU-Turkey deal fail, we will keep it open in case arrivals recommence. Moreover, NGOs are increasingly leaving the island or abandoning projects in the North, making our reception point there more important in the case of a landing. In the time being, we are looking for additional ways to be of assistance on the the island.

The situation has changed such that the refugees spend a much longer time on Lesvos as they await the processing of their asylum applications. Exacerbating this situation, is the lack of promised auditors by the European Union. Given this slow level of processing, we believe that some may have to wait over six months for a response.

Therefore, we want to begin projects that will help the refugees during their term. Among other things, we are planning a one that will match Greek lawyers to asylum seekers. However, this may take some time given that the asylum laws are so vague and misunderstood that they leave even the EU still searching for staff.

Alongside another group, the CK team, another potential project aims to re-accommodate people from the camps in dis-used hotels. Currently there are about 5,000 refugees on the island, divided between the camps Moria and Kara Tepe. In theory, once after registration, refugees have to stay in the camps for a period of twenty-five days. The implementation of this is slightly lacking however, as the Greek officials are understaffed and each person registered must receive an ‘exit paper’ in order to leave the camp which often takes more than twenty-five days. In Moria it is also the case where overcrowding has caused problems concerning food and accommodation. Everyday we hear reports of a lack of food, both in portion size as well as lacking enough portions to feed the entire camp. In terms of sleeping, there are up to forty people in one cabin, often with no lights or windows where, due to overcrowding, people sleep on mattresses on the floor. Even the quality of drinking water is poor and medical care is often inadequate or absent. It is for these inhuman conditions that we wish to provide alternative accommodation for people where food and beds will be provided.

We are still tackling those who feel that what is happening here is lawful, even necessary, and therefore also fine. Because it is not and we will never accept such actions as the ones happening here. Therefore, our main tasks are to stand up for and change the inhumane conditions of those whose rights as human beings have been violated. In this respect, our work as a human rights watch group has grown increasingly stronger since Moria became a detention centre as we will never accept actions which discriminate and treat people inhumanely based on their country of origin.