Breaking news: Fire in Camp Moria takes two lives

Due to an explosion of a gas bottle a fire has started in Refugee Camp Moria last night. Following this, a woman and young child were immediately brought to our medical post. Our team has treated these two most serious cases, which understandably had a major impact on our team. Together with other refugees a steady stream of water bottles were brought in to cool them. Eventually we ran through the camp with the child in our arms, towards the ambulance. At that time the situation was unsafe because of the riots that had broken out, but our team was greatly assisted by the refugees and our translators.

The child had been completely burned and, together with a woman, did not survive. Another child and a woman have been brought to a hospital in Athens, to receive further medical care. The medical team of Boat Refugee Foundation offered first aid in treating the wounded. During the fire there was a chaotic situation in the overcrowded camp, in which desperate people fled the camp and insufficient aid workers were at the scene.

For safety reasons, Boat Refugee Foundation provided additioneel urgent care outside the camp. Many people were desperate, in shock and did not know where to turn to. The medical care in the camp was aimed at treating burns; after the evacuation it was mainly focused on panic attacks. Ambulances came and went to transport people to the hospital. In light of the chaos, hectic and unsafe situation it became difficult to do our job, which led to the decision to withdraw. We are now focusing on emergency aid and the distribution of, among other things, water and blankets.

Our medical post has been completely destroyed.

For some time now, Boat Refugee Foundation has been reporting about the inhumane situation in the refugee camps in Greece. The overcrowded camps, in which sometimes over three times the expected amount of refugees are being housed in tents, together with the hopeless situation because of the endless arrival of refugees and the lack of transition options out of the camp can easily result in situations such as this. Boat Refugee Foundation is one of the few remaining aid organisations in the camp. Other major aid organisations have previously withdrawn from the camp in protest against the horrible conditions.

Our team has shown superhuman efforts. They are still reeling from what they have seen and went through. A team of trauma psychologists is there for them, 24/7, to provide sufficient after care.

Would you please think of them and provide a gesture of support in the comments below?

Appeal
Boat Refugee Foundation is completely dependent on donations. Would you please help us and in doing so, save human lives?
Your controbution is welcome on account number NL97 RBRB 0918932637, f.a.o. Stichting Bootvluchteling, earmark ‘Lesbos’ or donate on https://bootvluchteling.nl/en/donate/

Lesvos: ‘Is there a medic?’

We hear someone screaming through the volunteer house. ‘There is someone laying on the street.’ We grab our crash bags and hurry outside. A young man, I think he is in his early 30, lays on the sidewalk, shaking and half crying. We can’t reach him and he doesn’t react to our questions, lost in his own world. Its late and dark outside. The cold wind whistles around me and I look at the man who is totally wet, without shoes, and his fingers cramped near his head. He looks Afghan but I’m not sure. His arms are covered with blood, probably from the sharp coral. He keeps weeping and mumbling, with his eyes squeezed but we can’t understand him. We cover him with a rescue blanket and at the same time the ambulance arrives.

‘There are probably more’ says our Greek neighbor who helped us out. Together with some volunteers we walk down towards the beach. We search with a big light for more possible refugees on the shoreline, but we don’t find any. We do find two shoes, perfectly lying next to each other near the water. I look at it and keep wondering if they were his. Maybe he didn’t come from Turkey but was already on the island? Was he desperate, didn’t want to live like this anymore? What made him go into this cold sea? The sea where already thousands of refugees died.

I feel sorry for the man, sorry for him who reflects the other 5000 refugees who have the same despair and frustration and are stuck on this island. Stuck in a hopeless and inhuman situation. I look at the rough sea, the high waves and think of the people who will risk their life this night to cross to reach Europe. The Europe from which they think that everything will be better, which isn’t.

We walk up the hill back towards our house, some volunteers have to go on their shift in Moria. Moria the camp where many people are waiting in their tents for months, waiting for people who help them to make it a bit more bearable, waiting for a better life.

Libya

I was in Libya for six months and in prison for four months. It was very cramped. They took all our things away from us. The first prison, the guards beat me and kicked me repeatedly, sometimes more than once a day, this lasted for at least three months. The second prison, I had done one month. Then I escaped. Many, many, many of the people I saw in prison would get a gun smashed against their head or legs. I had a gun held to my head when I demanded food for the work I did. You are forced to work long hours without pay and sometimes they feed you. Mostly they don’t.

I saw a man get beaten with a large pipe and they put an electric cords(shocks) on him. Near his eyes and feet.
The reason I fled Africa, its a difficult place to live, to make it there is not easy and no jobs are available.
Once I escaped the prison, a man helped me. I then paid a man and he managed to get me on the boat. Once in the water I thought I was going to die. It was so dark. No light. People were fighting to sit in the middle of the boat and not on the sides.

I want to reach Italy for many reasons. But once there I wanna bring my family from Gambia. My parents deserve a better life. I am sad. I haven’t spoken to them for months… I miss them…but the journey was worth the risk.

Libya is not a good country. Everyone disrespects black men and women. They treat you like dirt. You’re worthless to them and that’s why I risked my life to be here today. I didn’t see any other way out. Jean / 20 / Gambia

Photo and story: Kenny Karpov

Medic

Hans Koster went to Lesvos as a medical doctor, with the Boat Refugee Foundation. We asked him about his experiences. In the medical cabin he tells us his emotional story about his experiences.
In particular, it are the children who makes the most impressions.

Translation of the movie:
Hans told us that there was this little girl who’s father died at sea when they are fleeing to Lesvos. The other day in the camp she sees her brother fall on the ground and hurts himself. She went in a terrible blackout because of the memory of losing her father. Here whole body was shutdown and she was experiencing a major panic attack.
Hans sits with her in his arms until she was calm again.

Samos – Story of a refugee

“I escaped alone. My family is back home. On that little boat, I was the only boy and the rest were grown men with long beards. I was scared. They gave me the life jacket and told me to pray. I didn’t stop praying until we got to Samos.” He has an intense look on his face, his eyes are sharp, and his voice is clear.

“When did you arrive?”
“8 months ago to this horrible camp.” He gazes down and lowers his voice. “Animals live better here in Samos.”
“Where do you want to go?” “To Germany where my cousin lives.“
He gazes into the abyss and asked: “Do you know how much longer I need to wait?” “Sorry…I don’t know either” was my muted response.

What I really wanted to say is “Sorry that at 17 you are all alone, strangers have become your family, this horrible camp has become your home, and your future is on hold… You are too young. You don’t deserve this!”

One will never be the same

One will never be the same after spending a day in our overcrowded camp seeing the sheer inhumanity everywhere. Tents within inches of each other, no privacy, children climbing the fences, looking for anything to play with, a rat here and there, anxious new comers just off the boat, sad faces, worried looks. I felt sadness and wondered why these people and why not me? The unfairness of the world.

One will never be the same after working one week in our overcrowded camp. Seeing the most wonderful smiles from refugees in our English class, talking to refugee doctors, electricians, women who have college degrees, stories of how people fled Syria, and many other countries. Children running up to play as you come to work with smiles and pleas for attention.

One will never be the same after living month after month in coats and hats. Some so depressed they don’t leave their area, and others hoping their day will come to be accepted in another country. At the rate they are getting out now, it will take 8 years before all are placed somewhere else.

Tekst/text: Candace Ryan (vrijwilliger Stichting Bootvluchteling)
Foto/photo: Marjan van der Meer (stock/archieffoto* Stichting Bootvluchteling)

The story of Ibrahim

My name is Ibrahim (24). I grew up in Côte d’Ivoire. I travel with my sister. We left together for a brighter future. We spent three & half months living in Libya. We couldn’t find any work. Just came to Libya, to pass to get into the boat. I stayed with 15-20 men in one room. It was awful conditions. Towards the end of every month the Libyan’s would come for our money or we would be beaten. They would threaten us, our families. They say things like we know where your family lives, we will kill them, unless you pay up. People were very scared by that. One month I was beaten with an iron bar. I only asked for food. Anything you ask for I was hit. My sister and I suffered very well there.

We left around midnight. A fair-colored skin man showed us the boat and pointed to everyone go this way. You will find land in few hours. I knew that wasn’t true. But what am I gonna do. My sister and I got into the boat and pushed off from the shore. It was pitch dark. A lot of people were screaming because none had seen the sea before. Myself included. When we saw your light, I couldn’t believe my eyes, we were safe. I felt freedom at that moment. I paid 1.1 million CFA, around €1600.

Foto& tekst: Kenny Karpov (Documentary Photographer for Stichting Bootvluchteling)

Story of Abu Bakar (14y)

I am Abu Bakar (14), I left Mali one month ago. My father wanted me to work on the land and my mother wanted me to continue my schooling, but later she decided I must take this journey. I don’t know how my mom arranged the trip or how she paid. I’m happy I am here. I am traveling with my older brother, I don’t know where he is on the boat, but he’s here. We spent one week in Libya, staying in a crowded flat with hundreds of people. We left Libya in the night, the men told us we would reach Italy in a couple hours. When I was in the boat, I only thought of reaching Italy. But when the water started rushing into the boat, I was very scared. I don’t know how to swim. I have never seen the water before. I kept thinking of my mother. It was hard for me to stay on my feet, a few women helped me sometimes…but I kept getting pushed around and stepped on, my hands, my feet were hurting very much. Others were fighting and shouting. The floors of the boat were coming apart, everyone was in a panic. It was so dark. Then we saw a light. I was so happy to be rescued. I wanna stay in Italy and continue my education. One day I want to be an engineer.
Text & photo: Kenny Karpov (Documentary Photographer for Stichting Bootvluchteling)