Greece’s Eleonas Refugee Camp Is A Secure Haven For Afghan Refugees
If a police automotive wasn’t parked outdoors its entrance, you’d hardly have the ability to guess that there’s a refugee camp on this Athens neighborhood. Parked trucks and junk yards encompass the campsite, which had been empty till not too long ago. A wall and a sliding door prevent anybody from looking inside. It is absolutely quiet — very few sounds come from the camp.
We enter the enclosure with a small group of Afghan refugees. The one documentation they’re required to point out to get in are the non permanent residence playing cards they acquired upon arriving in Greece.
White makeshift houses are neatly lined up. Whoever wants to go away the camp has to undergo a small house that serves as a reception. An indication on one among its home windows reads “IN/OUT.” One other bungalow homes a medical heart. The Red Cross operates out of it, and there’s a kitchen the place the Greek Navy hands out meals. The children’s house is the most lively a part of the camp.
All types of individuals come and go: volunteers, staff of the Ministry of Migration and members of nongovernmental organizations. There are additionally folks from the United Nations refugee company, the NGO “Praksis” and the government’s asylum providers.
Many of the refugees within the camp stone island bubble coat are Afghans who want to keep away from camping out in public locations like Victoria Sq.. A lot of them depart after two or three days, as soon as they obtain cash wired to them from friends and relations, which will fund the next leg of their journey.
I meet Sayed Ahman within the children’s tent. He is about two or three years previous and bursts into laughter each time he’s teased. His dad, Atmajan, forty two, got here to Greece together with his spouse, little Sayed and his baby brother, Etmah. The household set out from their hometown 40 days ago leaving their seven and nine yr previous daughters with their grandparents.
“In Afghanistan I had a job, which was Okay contemplating the scenario there, I drove an ambulance and lots of occasions I labored for the UN,” Atmajan says. “But everyday life in Afghanistan is really hard. There are the Taliban, the tribe leaders, the military even, you don’t know who you must guard your self from, who’s preventing whom … Working with the ambulance I noticed lots of horrible things. We had to go away.”
I ask him in regards to the route they followed. “In 15 days we crossed via Iran and in one other 5 by way of Turkey. All through the way in which we have been with traffickers, we had been scared to move by ourselves. You feel continuously in hazard, you just go on without knowing precisely the place you’re,” Stone Island Atmajan says. From Turkey, their journey was so hasty that he solely remembers crossing over by boat. “These hours contained in the boat with my wife and two youngsters were probably the most dangerous,” he says.
Does he miss his daughters “We are communicating on a regular basis, however our souls harm and my spouse cries on a regular basis,” Atmajan says. “We do not know the place we’re going to find yourself, but when we attain someplace we are going to bring the women, all be collectively again.”
Anthi Karaggeli of the Greek inside ministry says that there are guidelines within the camp, however persons are free to return and go. “We primarily need the individuals to feel safe and calm inside the camp,” she says. “They want the calm, they have been via so much. They have risked each their lives and the lives of their youngsters, so they’re very emotional. Right here, they’ll catch their breath and keep going.”
There have been small protests earlier than the camp opened at the top of August. “It was seven individuals all in all who protested, and they are residents of the wider area as a result of there is no neighborhood here,” Karaggeli says. “The number of people from Votanikos, from Eleonas, who arrive at the camp carrying clothes, food, milk, and toys for the refugees’ children is far bigger. And they bring their children with them to play with these children, even if they don’t communicate the identical language.”
In the camp there are 94 little homes, ninety of that are occupied. Each house has four double bunk beds, a sink with some small cupboards, a toilet with a shower and air conditioning. The camp can hold 720 people. Two families of four can stay together, however single males touring alone are sheltered in another part, not remoted but separate.
A refugee comes nearer. He wants to share one thing. He says he lost most of his money stone island bubble coat in the boat to the Greek island of Lesbos. He is here at the camp with his family, seven people in complete. The man says the trafficker requested for 1,000 euros for each person and half that amount for each little one for them to proceed the journey, but the family only has 400 euros left.
“I don’t know what to do,” the man says. He shows a fresh scar on his forehead and says he was attacked by Pakistanis with sticks and stones when he was in Lesbos. The situation was really tough. “Here we are respected and taken care of,” he mentioned about conditions in the camp. “We thank them, we thank you all.”
Mohamed, 22, and Khojand, 23, are Afghans, but they were raised in Iran, where their families sought a safer future. They met on the journey to Greece and grew to become buddies. Both men are thought of “economic migrants.”
I find them listening to Iranian rap in a shady part of the camp.
Mohamed and Khojand say they left Iran because the state treated them like second class citizens. They passed from Iran to Turkey, walking for hours in the mountains, along with the traffickers. In some unspecified time in the future they had been robbed by locals who needed to get the traffickers’ money but eventually took personal items from their “cargo”. To travel from Iran to Turkey, Mohamed and Khojand say they paid $500 and another $1,000 to reach Lesbos on a dinghy.
It took them, and 35 others, two and a half hours to achieve European soil in the little boat. The sea was calm at first, then somewhere on the best way the boat’s engine crashed and started to flood. They had to empty the waters. “We were really scared,” they say.
“Here, everything is nice,” Mohamed says concerning the camp in Eleonas. “There is not any such camp in Asia.”
It’s getting dark. Volunteers with the Greek Red Cross entertain the kids with balls and drawing.
Katerina, a volunteer, says, “Despite their stress and fatigue, they are filled with power, typical kids. They’re so pleased with the little issues like painting. After they depart here, they by no means cry, we all the time see them smiling.”
There are nights when the refugees gather in a circle and sing. “They relax. And we with them. We neglect to go dwelling,” Karaggeli says.
All photographs courtesy of Menelaos Myrillas.
This publish first appeared on HuffPost Greece and was translated into English. It has been edited for clarity.