First day at Moria

Good morning everyone!

I planned to write yesterday evening but… I fell asleep. Anyhow, spent most of the day at camp Moria, don’t know how I should describe it really. It was to some extent not as horrible as I had expected (probably because I’m good at having low/negative expectations, and also much thanks to the volunteers operating in the area), but still very very bad. And huge. I don’t even dare to imagine what the situation will be like when it starts to rain…

At Moria, people wait in general for some few days to get their registration, which permits them to travel further through Greece and on. Without the registration, they cannot buy a ferry ticket to Athens, and would have to go through smugglers. The registration by Frontex usually occurs at a lower rate than people arriving in boats (about 1’800 people arrived on 26th according to UNHCR), leading to an increase of inhabitants in the camp. Yesterday, they were processing people who had arrived on the 23rd, from what I saw. Also, not everyone leave right when they are registered, for example if they don’t have money for the ferry (or in some cases, because they want to help out as volunteers for a while <3).

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Moria Family Compound

The camp has one in-door ”Family compound” for vulnerable populations, including sick, elderly and children. If you’re lucky, you get a spot there when night falls. People queue for hours to get in, because there are lights and heating inside. There are also some plastic huts (IKEA huts) from UNHCR around the area – not so many, apparently due to political/bureaucratical reasons. These don’t have any lights, but might be slightly better than the thin tents in which most of the others sleep. I don’t even understand how they can fit in those tents. Not everyone has a (or can find a) tent either, and then they simply sleep on the ground under the stars. (Or don’t sleep at all during the night).

As soon as the sun sets, Moria gets very cold. I was cold even though I was wearing my Swedish winter jacket. The only heating (outside of the family compound) seems to be the fires. One of the coordinators told me that firewood is much needed, as well as diesel for lamps. I will try to investigate if there are any other options for light and heat (I assume they’ve already looked into that though), but I believe that some of the money will be spent on that. I also want to look into whether the latrines can be improved in any way, seems like a health hazard the way they are currently. There are about 2 (edit: 3) groups of toilets around the area, and three stations with drinking water. I don’t know how many people the camp hosts per day on average, but it’s some thousand I guess.

My day at Moria was spent a bit all over the place, as I still haven’t decided organisation and tasks. In the morning until about lunch, there is distribution of clothes on the ”inside” (on ministry of interior property, with mainly only recognised NGOs allowed, a bit better facilities including light, a lot of police around and mostly syrian/arabic people). People line up outside of the tent and tell us what they need, while we try to find it in one of the many boxes. The tent was waayy to small to fit any quantities of clothes, and most things we couldn’t even find in the storage (though there seems to be an excess in the warehouses in other cities…). In the evening, the same procedure – but less complex –  is repeated with blankets, gloves and similar. People would also approach us around the tent and ask questions such as ”is there water”, ”where is the doctor”, ”do you have a wheel chair”, ”where am I supposed to sleep” or simply ”what should I do here”. Apparently, the flow of information is not always too great.

In the afternoon, I went to the self-organised medical tent on the ”outside” (on a muddy hill with mostly self organised volunteers, mainly

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Moria, ”Outside”

afghan refugees) to see if I could be of any use as a med student. They asked if I could take a history, and told me to come in. The medical tent seems to be very over worked (so med student friends, get yourself over here!). Though the person responsible was not there at the moment so I’ll visit them again today. It’d be interesting to see a report from the health care personnel; what are the most common issues, could they’ve been caused by the situation in the camp or on the road, is there anything health care personnel in hosting countries should take into consideration, are there any points that we should advocate for, and so on. Also, as one of the other volunteer coordinators pointed out, take a walk around the camp and list the health hazards. I’ll try to talk to them at some point and see what they say.

Then I was mostly hanging around on the outside, chatting a bit with people, playing with the kids. There are sooo many kids around, and they’re so sweet. Apart from some girls who I saw throwing stones at each other this morning. I was sitting with a group of young men from Afghanistan – a medical student, an engineering student, and a high school graduate – as one of them said to me ”Jessica, you should find a hotel. you should leave before the night because it gets dark and very very cold. Don’t stay here during the night”… I asked where they slept, and he said ”Here. Well we didn’t sleep last night because it was so cold, we were sitting around the fire and talking all night”. I’ll definitely buy firewood, or something else for heating… Then, we were approached by a couple of other boys; one of their brother, 13 years old, had been registered separately and taken to a different place, from what I heard because he was an unaccompanied minor. The older brother wanted them to stick together, understandably, so we ran around talking to volunteers and organisations and UNHCR, trying to find the little brother. I had to leave in the middle, but I hope that they managed to solve it.

I went with two other volunteers to the port, to find a family that they had previously sent there by taxi. The family had been registered for three days, but they had no money for the tickets (I think it’s around 50€ per person). The mother was also sick with some infection, so another volunteer decided to buy the tickets for them. We however realised that the earliest possible ferry would be on Tuesday, and so the family had to spend two nights somewhere. One option was to stay at the port, where some other people had already settled down, another was to go back to Moria though they wouldn’t have anything there. A third would be to find a hotel accepting refugees and pay for two nights there. In the end, we found another self-organised (by volunteers) camp close to the harbour, so we drove them there and took farewell.

Then I got home and fell asleep in front of the computer, missing two Skype meetings, yay me. Today I’ll probably do a night shift together with above mentioned volunteers. I’m not planning on going back north even though it was nice there, and I’ll also look into extending my stay here on Lesvos with some days.

Take care!

J

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