The end of our first week and we are making sense of the chaos. Working well in our positions and as a team. All the medical NGOs are working together and it is inspiring. Still, the set-up is evolving. Awaiting construction of spaces and shelters for many of the medical services. Triage both chronic and primary are still with no shelter and the covid testing site and isolation is not really isolated well. This camp is far from an ideal location and getting the iso boxes to the island take time.
There were Greek ministers and IOM officials visiting the camps and rumors has it that several EU countries will be stepping up to take the most vulnerable. It is clear to anyone who has spent even 5 minutes in this camp that it is inhumane for people to live like this. There is no electricity in the camp and again NO RUNNING WATER. There are a few NGOs renting buildings to offer showers by appointment. There are 8,000 people. So, the appointments could be a month or more out. Imagine having to wait a month to shower. The other option is to bathe in the sea, which is now cold. Many refugees also have a traumatic relationship with the sea after their journey across the Aegean in rubber rafts.
Food in the camp is the same MREs which my translator told me the meat in them was often undercooked and the rice hard. The Greek couple from Home for All who had distributed meals to 3000 a day after the fire continues to offer meals, but they are not permitted to distribute inside the camp and so they must do it outside the police gates. They are preparing meals for the most vulnerable. it is difficult and at times impossible for refugees to get beyond the police gates.
There is a hierarchy of service, delivery first to the most vulnerable, the sick chronically ill, mothers and children, the elderly, and single women. The young men are on the bottom of this list FOR EVERYTHING. It is sad. It creates a situation where they have to fight for everything, and then they are called volatile, violent. Life is so difficult.
When I ask people in triage how they are doing they ALL sadly say this is so difficult, many have said, ”We are not animals to be kept in a barn.” Actually, I think a barn would offer improved shelter. I was shocked to hear that over 100 people are housed in some of the large tents. During covid?????
My very smart Afghani translator told me last night he is in a tent with 100 other young men, nobody sleeps. It is cold, noisy and crowded. There is a huge police presence and they are very strict about refugee movement in the camp. It is difficult for refugees to even get through to the medical tents sometimes, especially for young men.
We have to stop making refugees, stop creating the conditions that create refugees. A few of our translators have said they have been here for over a year and are still waiting for interviews. Asylum interviews are now on hold until 2021.