Dear Europeans, Dear Mrs von der Leyen
We wish you a Merry Christmas from the new refugee camp in Lesvos. We hope you can celebrate despite the hardships we all face due to the Corona pandemic crisis.
Three months ago after the old Moria camp burned down, we moved to a new camp and now we live here with 7000 refugees. In September we were promised much better conditions in this new camp and we were happy to listen to these promises and waited to see them being fulfilled.
Unfortunately nothing really happened. Still we wait for a sufficient amount of warm showers, when it rains the whole camp gets flooded and many tents get wet, we don’t have heaters to keep us and our children warm, no schools or kindergartens. If we get sick, we wait hours for medical treatment and although the food we receive is enough, it is not very healthy.
Also we were promised that our asylum process will finally speed up, but still too many of us are waiting, some since more than one year for an interview. Instead we sit here in limbo and have nothing to do but wait.
In many ways the situation is somehow even worse than before the big fire. Only the security got better, but still in the night there are no lights in the camp. In old Moria we were able to organize ourselves, we managed small schools, shops and many more activities. In the new camp this is not possible.
We agree with the German Minister Mr. Mueller who said last week that the situation in this camp is worse than in any African crisis country. We want to thank him for his clear words, but we ask ourselves: How come after three months and so many millions of money donated by governments’ and collected by NGO’s we are still sitting in a place without running water, hot showers and a functioning drainage system? Why our children still can not attend classes and why we are dependent on the good will of some organisations who distribute used clothes and shoes to us.
Don’t we have simple rights as humans and refugees in Europe that cover basic services to everyone? We read and hear that we have to live like animals in these camps, but we think it is not true. We studied the laws to protect animals in Europe and we found out they have more rights than we do.
Every animal should have these rights:
“Freedom from hunger or thirst
Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space and, proper facilities and company
Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.”
Do we have anything of these rights here? Sorry: No. Maybe we are not too hungry but we don’t live in an “appropriate environment”. We have no freedom from pain and distress. None of us are able to live normally, because all day we struggle to get some water to clean, food and a warm place and we all live in fear and distress. A new study said refugees on Greek islands are so depressed, every third person thinks of suicide.
So we honestly ask you: Would we be treated like this if we were animals? So we just ask you to grant us simple rights animals have. We would be happy if we receive them and promise you would not hear any complaints from us.
But also we don’t want to hear any more that “our situation is not that bad”. We invite everyone who thinks that to stay even one night in our camp.
So after a terrible year we had to live here this is our wish for Christmas. It is simple and we think it takes not more than three or for weeks to make it come true.
We are not asking for more donations or money for fixing the infrastructure, we read in newspapers how many million were already spent and we many of us are engineers, electricians, doctors and we know it does not need very much money to fix such a camp.
If you want to help us please ask: Where has all this money gone? Why did it not reach us?
We are ready to help and work hard, if you let us and trust us to make this place better. We proved it in the past and even now most work here is done either by refugees volunteering for NGOs or refugees self help organisations. We always want to show the image a lot of people have about us is wrong: We came to Europe to ask for asylum and to become citizens and useful parts of your societies.
We consider this our camp and we want to have the support to fix it. We only need some professional help from experts, but what we see are many volunteers full of good will but without the skills to fix drainage, shelters and water supply. What we need is to be taken seriously as partners and to know what is planned and how much money is given.
We see many calls for donations and promises and when we see that so little has changed here, even after all these millions have been donated, it makes us frustrated and angry.
Let us be very clear: All of us cannot stand the idea of another year starting with the same conditions in Samos and Chios.
We are asking you to not let that happen. We are asking for some very simple steps:
- To fix the water supply and showers
- To fix the sanitary installations
- To put a proper drainage that our camp does not flood after rain
- To supply proper electricity and heating and proper tents for winter
- To have places for children
- To supply enough tents for schools, classes and workshops
- To put light on the main streets on the camp
- To improve medical and psychological services
- To have places for meetings and leisure
Please if you want to help us make this possible. In spring there was a lot of talk about evacuation but even for Christmas we just ask for fixing this temporary camp and not let us suffer the rest of the winter in this place.
All our best wishes
Omid Deen Mohammed for Moria Corona Awareness Team (MCAT)
Raed al Obeed for Moria White Helmets (MWH)
(This open letter is supported by many refugees, we have their names and they agree on the content)