A STREAM OF REFUGEES
Since the beginning of this century, more and more people have been trying to reach Europe from countries where war and poverty prevail. Large streams of refugees, most of them fleeing conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan. In addition, people from Iraq, Iran and from African countries such as Congo, Cameroon, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Libya and Eritrea.
Up to the present day people are desperately looking for safety in Europe. Since the deal of March 2016 between the EU and Turkey, the so-called Turkey deal, and the successive deals with the African countries, Europe’s outer borders have been hermetically closed. The escape routes are mostly across the sea.
Refugees pay a lot of money to make the crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands on small rickety boats. If they survive the journey, they are transferred to refugee camps, which are becoming more and more crowded.
The Greek islands of Limnos, Kos, Rhodes, Samos, Chios and Lesvos are close to the Turkish coast. Therefore there are many boats of human smugglers, especially on Samos and Lesvos. From January to August 2018, 16,262 people arrived on the Greek coasts. Most of them, 8,550 people, reached Lesvos.
Upon arrival, the refugees are immediately brought to camps for registration. In 2015, the area near the jail of Moria on the Greek island of Lesvos was made suitable as a refugee camp. The camp is eight football pitches large. The intention was to accommodate 1200 refugees. There are thousands of refugees in the camp and the camp is not meant to hold such large numbers.
The Greek ministry of Migration runs Moria, the UNHCR and the European authorities supervise registration.
The living conditions are horrible. Refugees live in hilly terrain, densely packed in tents or cabins.
Most of us think it is nice and warm in Greece all year round. But the climate on Lesvos knows cold, rain, scorching heat and snow. Snow causes the tents to collapse. It is either could or hot in the camp, there is lack of food and everywhere you see waste and faeces. The latter because there are far too few (usable) toilets for all those people.
There is also a shortage of usable showers. The lack of water is chronic. The psychological pressure of being packed with so many people is gigantic and is near the limit of the permissible, or is already over it.
Ro-La is a young woman from Syria. She fled to Europe for her safety and ended up in Camp Moria. “Life is hell,” she says. “Far too little sanitary ware for all those thousands of people and often no water. If you can take a shower you will come out dirtier than you go in.” Look here for an interview with Ro-La.
Aid organisations provide medical consultations and psychological assistance. They take care of the clothing and blanket distribution as well as school classes and the libraries. It is regularly attempted to tackle the bad sanitary facilities within camp Moria, but so far this has not really succeeded partly because of the low capacity of the infrastructure in the vicinity of the camp.
The situation in camp Moria deteriorates by the day. Every week refugees arrive with boats at the island. The number of people who were given permission to leave the island was much smaller than the number of new arrivals. This is how the number of refugees is growing on Lesvos by the day.
The daily life of people in camp Moria consists of standing in line. Waiting for food, waiting for drinking water, waiting for news about the procedure and meanwhile trying to get dry and stay warm, or enduring the heat.
It seems to be a temporary situation but the asylum procedures are so slow that people are forced to live for months, often years, in these conditions. They already suffer from the traumas of war and their flight and now they also have to live with the uncertainty whether they can stay in Europe or whether they will be sent back to Turkey or their native country.
Of course this is too much for people who are so heavily traumatised. ShowerPower wants to help making the lives of refugees in the camp a little more bearable. We do this by offering clean and safe showers outside the camp.
It may sound very simple, but the occasional hot shower makes a world of difference. The warm water has a calming effect and finally being able to wash your hair or bathe your child makes that you can temporarily escape reality. Because you feel human again.
Read here about how ShowerPower realises that.
ShowerPower wants to give as many people as possible from camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesvos the opportunity to shower in a clean and safe place. This is how we go about it:
We have made a bathhouse of a property at a reasonable distance from camp Moria. We provide towels, new underwear, toiletries and a van to transport people from and to Moria. Volunteers help to run the bathhouse
The distress was high. In February 2018 ShowerPower started for the weakest women and children. ShowerPower works from a house rented through the agency of BeTheChange@ Lesvos.
EVERYONE CAN HELP
Everyone can help to improve the living conditions of the people in camp Moria. Did you know that with a donation of €4,- somebody in the camp can take a shower? So whether you donate €5,-or €100,-, each amount helps to reach the bigger goal.
Feel free to share ShowerPower’s mission on social media with friends, colleagues and family.
Of course you can also help by doing volunteer work with us. You can do that in the Netherlands, at your laptop from any place in the world and in the ShowerPower house on Lesvos in Greece.