Condemn me, it does not matter; History will absolve me.” – Fidel Castro. ( 1926-2016)
As the death is announced of the great revolutionary, Fidel Castro, above is one of his memorable quotes. Sadly and shamefully, the same can not be said of us, this generation, this period of history as we watch and permit the death, humiliation , racist treatment and inhuman reactions to the call out of so many for help.
Arriving back in Samos, one of the 5 hotspots has been sad . Nothing has ever been easy here, there have always been problems but what has become of this camp is nothing short of deplorable. I do not have the words nor the literal skills to describe sufficiently the state of this camp, this supposed place of registration and temporary holding for over 2000 people.9 months in a tent is not temporary. 9 months with out an interview to even begin the asylum process is not “paperwork”. The over used excuse of this being “unprecedented”has run out after 2 years.
Since when and by whose conscience have we as a race of people accepted that abandoning families , men , women and children to a small summer camping tent, on a steep incline on the side of a mountain heading in to a second winter is ok? That a camp built for 800 and now holding 2300 is safe? A camp with no evacuation plan in case of emergency, with no water regularly for toilets and showers for over 2000 people )already this week we were without water for 3 days running) . An “extended area” otherwise known as a field! to the side of the camp where tents are pitched in mud and on rocks, where there is no light once the sun goes down. Where campfires are the only form of heating and attempts at cooking to supplement the extremely unhealthy food rations handed out.
This week alone, Derek and I walked to every inch of the camp. We handed out tickets to every individual in a tent for extra blankets on behalf of the Hellenic red cross.We, HRC and Friendly Humans group ( Samos) handed out 1300 blankets that afternoon. This did not cover those in the ISO box metal containers. So, 1300 people are in tents! This week also, we provided every family in the camp who have children aged 6 months to 2 years with tins of baby formula. Milk for the children is rationed and many mama’s are unable to continue breastfeeding as they are very stressed, some are too ill and weak and most do not have enough nutrition in their own bodies to continue providing enough of their own milk. On Sunday, Derek and I handed out baby sleeping suits and small sleeping bags to every child in the camp. Sadly, by the time Mondays forecasted storm came, many of these items were drenched and useless…And the same is forecast for tonight again. As I type heavy rains and strong winds are bashing Samos . Most of today was spent trying to help dry out tents, clothes, blankets and children. Men were scrambling for rocks to tie down tents and paletts to help raise the tents off puddles of water.
Each week at our regular cafe nights ( Sunday, Wednesday and Friday) we ,with the Friendly Humans group, distribute kettles, cookers, strollers along with the usual tea, coffee and juice. All needed but they are just band aids for the bigger problems, the problems not being dealt with.And this comes back to bureocracy, authority, EU , money, personnel and in fighting. It comes back to war, conflict, land grabs, occupation and greed. It comes back to the complicity of silence among nations not ( yet) affected.
Samos camp itself is a health hazard. It smells, badly. The lack of running water means toilets overflow, drains clog and stagnant water sits on the ground. Rubbish collects in piles. Camps are pitched squeezed between containers and concrete walls for shelter. To access these tents means a single person must shuffle sideways between them. Ropes are strung up for laundry, campfires are lit in precarious sites, shoes are left outside, makeshift chairs or tables are in the way. This is all because of over crowding, too slow processing of paperwork, much too slow movement of people and authorities and large organisations still pretending to know what they are doing. In the event of a fire, there is no escape for large sections of this camp. It is a disaster waiting to happen, not if but when.
There are options, many have been muted several times but none are taken up. We have been to other camps, ( not hotspots) which although still fighting slow processing and red tape are at least maintained and managed with a degree of hygiene, efficiency and solidarity. Here in Samos the volunteers and some of the smaller NGO’s do their best but lately even we are fighting for the right to stay, help and observe… Personally, I think the observation is causing the most distress to those in Authority!
So, we continue with asking for help with the band aids, we continue to do what we can and we will continue to fight for the rights and justices of all to be given refuge with as much compassion, decency and dignity as they so deserve. No part of what we do can continue with out your support.
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