Project Stories:

Food for refugees on the island of Lesbos

by BWO, 2016/08/19

Since August 2015 many thousands of refugees come to the vacation island of Lesbos in Greece. Hence the isle attracted international media attention, but still struggles to cope with the new challenges. humedica now assists to provide for the people in the camps.

Lesbos is the third biggest Greek island and, due to its close proximity to Turkey, a popular waypoint in the Northern Aegean in particular for Syrian refugees. But also Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistani and Afghans arrive at the isle. They live in especially built refugee accommodations. The nearly 90.000 inhabitants demonstrate an enormous helpfulness for the people arriving daily. In August, the peak period, each day up to 5.000 persons have arrived to be also transported onward to the mainland.

But since the closure of the Balkan route the refugees accumulate at Lesbos without any possibility to move on. In April and Mai this year this fact lead to substantial tensions among the waiting people. The situation in the two existing camps deteriorated further since the withdrawal agreement with Turkey. Thousands of refugees, who have been taken up by the coastguards ever since, now have to reckon to be sent back to Turkey.

The two camps accommodate the displaced persons. In the smaller camp Kara Tepe, managed by the Lesbos community, live mainly particularly vulnerable people, mostly families and children. The bigger camp in Moria is managed by the military, which provides for safety on the outside. The police is responsible for the inner safety. The wing, where the international relief organisations (NGOs) work, is completely closed off by three m high fences with barbed wire. So the place often resembles a prison, even so the refugees can move around freely here for the most part.

The symbolic deportations back to Turkey have instilled fear and protests. After the demonstrations the security measures in the island capital Mytilini have been increased. Many NGOs have retreated because of the jailhouse-like conditions, also to protest against the EU-Turkey convention.

Together with our partner REMAR Greece, who started its engagement at Lesbos in April, humedica provides refugees with a hot lunch since mid July. 800 meals are distributed daily. As early as October 2015 REMAR started to care for refugees who have stranded on the coasts.

After initial raids and burglaries the situation in the capital Mytilini has calmed down. The first international tourists have returned, the camps are not really noticeable there. But the new refugee arrivals increase again, about 50 people come each day. According to the UNHCR in 2016 alone 92.574 refugees have already reached the island via the sea. 38 percent of them are children, 21 percent women and the remaining 41 percent men, among them also many unaccompanied minors.

Die unterstützenden Hilfsmaßnahmen zur Versorgung der Flüchtlinge werden noch bis Ende des Jahres durchgeführt.

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