First day in Idomeni

Still alive! Though I have to admit that the pallet bed was not the most comfy thing that I’ve ever slept on, although I’m not very picky.

In the morning, I went with two other girls to Park Hotel to join the Hummus Rights Project. We were quite many volunteers, but not so many cars – I think that counts as motivation to join the group, haha. The previous day, violence had apparently erupted during the distribution with people jumping on the cars, so they had to shut down and leave. We received a short introduction by the coordinator, including an emergency plan in case of incidents. I was going to stand at the female line distribution table together with the two girls from before.

We set off driving after the van. On one of the bridges, the police stopped us and asked of passports. We handed over our ID documents, and some minutes later we were able to leave. Idomeni was only a short drive away, and we stopped outside of the camp. We walked across the fields with tents, crossed the railway, and IMG_8408.JPGreached the van. Two groups of people were already waiting, on each side of the van. In the middle, three tables were standing – with tomatoes, oranges, bread and boiled eggs. The people were given one of each as they reached the table, the queues stretched many many meters. We also handed out water for families with tiny babies. Many people approached us to ask for water and food, saying that they were sick, injured, pregnant and similar, and we would refer them to a separate table to not disrupt the line.

Some hours later, all the items were gone and we went back to the car. On the railway, we met some young Syrian men who were conducting interviews for Tea-TV (now – refugees.tv – you should follow them on Facebook!) using a microphone made up of a paper cup on a fork, filming with a wooden log. “What is happening here?” they asked, filming intensely. “What is Europe doing?” They started to walk around the camp, ‘interviewing’ both volunteers, NGO workers and fellow residents. This eventually received quite a lot of attention from the by-passers, and also a media team. Amazing idea.IMG_8417.JPG

In the camp, “normal” life is still going on. Along the street, people were cutting each other’s hairs and beards, trading cigarettes and t
omatoes and playing football. We played for a while with a young Syrian boy, and soon two other boys joined. “Hello,” we would say to every person passing by. At one family, we stopped for a longer time. Why, I don’t remember. The mother told us that parts of their tent had fallen down during the storm yesterday.IMG_883211.jpg Soon, two men also arrived, and we could speak a little bit of English and Turkish with them. The father asked if I could bring them some tomatoes, potatoes and similar from Polikastro, if they gave me money. Goods are apparently cheaper in Polikastro than here. Of course, I said, but I can buy the items first, then you can give me the money. “But if you don’t take the money we don’t want your help!” he stated firmly. I promised that I would accept the money.

 

IMG_8441Back in the warehouse, I was told to stand in the distribution area. Boxes were emptied much faster than we could refill them, and ended up a bit here and there. I ended up focusing on sorting shoes instead. In one of the shoes, a baby mouse had found a home. Very cute, but not the faeces spread around the whole box in which I was working. Maybe I’ll get the plague and die. But to be fair, the warehouse is full of mice and other animals. So, it probably this baby mouse didn’t make much of a difference.

I passed by an intense discussion regarding the aims, ethics and consequences of handing out different products. So, we don’t want the refugees to stay in Idomeni, but rather for them to move to formal military camps. Apparently, the conditions are better there, and it’s more of a sustainable solution. But is it really? I’m very confused. The discussion addressed whether handing out certain items to refugees would encourage them to stay in the camp, and what our role should be. My role is to sort clothes now. It makes my brain happier.

I don’t know, a lot of things are far from ideal. For example, we don’t allow any direct distribution from the warehouse to the refugees. If someone walks up here, we are not allowed to provide them with anything, as it would be very problematic if more people started to come. But this means that we distinct between ”us” and ”them” in a not very nice way. Not happy.

I’m sleeping in the car tonight, just to try it out.

Good night!

J

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