Boat Refugee Foundation on Lesbos

The work of the Boat Refugee Foundation changes frequently on Lesbos. In 2015, the work mainly consisted of boat arrivals, rescue missions and medical activities. Today, we focus on medical and psychosocial activities. This means a change from emergency to structural care, within tighter frames and with a higher level of professionalism.

Refugee camps on Lesbos

Moira is the largest refugee camp on Lesbos. It is a so called registration and identification center (about 2,300 residents, mainly single men). After refugees arrive on the island by boat, they all go to Moira for registration and to start their asylum application. This camp is being run by the army and the police. After registration, the most vulnerable refugees are moved to another camp or shelter. Moira is a closed camp, with a prison-like atmosphere. The camp is divided in different sectors by nationality. There is also a prison inside the camp. Besides medical care, there are not many facilities for the refugees. Fights and riots are likely to happen considering the condition of the camp and the hopeless situation of the refugees.

Our main role in this camp is to provide emergency medical aid during the evenings from 4pm to 11pm and at night from 11pm until 9am. We do not have final responsibility for the medical care in the camp, but we are one of the supporting medical teams. For medical services, the PSS-team supplies a crowd controller during evening shifts. The crowd controller helps the medical team to create an overview of the incoming patients, taking their personal details and keep the peace outside the medical cabin. The crowd controller works closely together with one of the doctors responsible for the intake and possible prioritize patients.

The second activity of the PSS-team in camp Moira is a social one, taking place between 8pm and 9.30pm. This activity is walking through the camp to interact with the refugees in the camp. You walk in pairs and provide refugees the opportunity to chat, and you offer a sympathetic ear to their stories and daily worries. Through this daily activity we want to show we are not only there to offer medical care, but also for mental support and a smile.

Kara Tepe 
Kara Tepe is a camp for vulnerable refugees (approximately 1,000 residents). In the camp you will find multiple single-parent families, families with young children or elderly, chronically ill and disabled refugees. Camp Kara Tepe is run by the local authorities and falls under direct responsibility of the Greek Government. In Kara Tepe, different NGOs offer several forms of support and activities, ranging from children’s activities to food distribution, but also practical support with, for example, solar power. The PSS-team offers different activities within the different services, mainly aimed at children, women and families. Our goal is to activate the residents of Kara Tepe, triggering their independence. The Boat Refugee Foundation wants to offer refugees a platform to demonstrate and utilize their capabilities, that way enabling them to gain back control over their lives using their inner strengths. The activities are open to everyone who is interested, and are mainly meant to create a safe environment where refugees can relax and build trust. Refugees are in an insecure, vulnerable position, therefore we do not offer therapy or trauma recovery. We focus on helping refugees cope with their current situation. Note that the children you will work with will demonstrate behavioral problems on different levels. In the next part we will describe an overview of and requirements for each service.

Caritas Hotel
The Caritas Hotel is an alternative shelter for very vulnerable refugees, such as families with children. The organization Caritas is renting a hotel where about one hundred people (mainly families), can live semi-interdependently. Caritas recently moved and relocated the residents from this shelter to another hotel. Currently, we are orienting which activities we will offer in this new setting. At the old location we offered medical care three times a week, and the PSS-team also provided English classes to children and adults three times a week.

Medical shifts in the refugee camps

The medical team mainly consists of (family)doctors and nurses. The medical team works on three different locations on Lesbos: camp Moira, camp Kara Tepe and the Caritas Hotel. On these three locations we work together with different medical NGOs so we are able to cover the medical needs of refugees as much as possible. This way we also relieve the local hospital.

In Moira we work daily in day and night shifts, from 4pm to 9am, by doctors and nurses from our medical station. In Kara Tepe the day shift is only on Saturdays and Sundays. The medical care is mainly focused on non-specialized, acute and semi-acute care. For this reason, family doctors/GPs and emergency doctors are usually a good match. Medical problems vary from mild issues such as throat aches and mental issues and more serious problems, such as asthma attacks or epileptic insults.

When you will work on Lesbos as a medical professional, you will receive the medical protocol before your arrival in which we provide more specific information about the situation in the refugee camps.

PSS-activities in the Refugee camps

The PSS-team consists of teachers, social workers, psychologists and other relevant psychosocial professionals. We offer a varied activity program, spread over the day and week. Shifts start at 11am and the late shift ends at 11pm. In between shifts you have time to prepare the activities. Most activities take place in camp Kara Tepe.

1. Movie nights
At night we show, if possible, movies (for adults) three times a week in Arab, Farsi and English.
Location: Kara Tepe

2. Womens group
Once a week we offer an Arab and Farsi women group activity. We get together with a small group of women to strengthen them and make them more resilient by offering support, information and by simply being together. Our sessions contain a mix of companionship, physical activities such as dancing, and discussions about several topics such as gender differences, family, culture etc. The sessions are organized by a female volunteer who is in the camp for a longer period of time. To maintain the personal character of the sessions and gain the trust of the women, we try to vary the volunteers involved as little as possible.
Location: Kara Tepe

3. Excursions
Weekly, we organize excursions for women and families. There is a women excursion each Sunday and Wednesday. We gather in Kara Tepe and drive with two cars to a place of their preference. We mainly chat and we organize a picnic. This activity is guided by two female volunteers, of which one of them is here for a longer period of time.
Twice a week, we organize excursions for families. We gather with around two or three families in Kara Tepe and drive to a place of their preference. We chat and play, and organize a picnic.
Location: Kara Tepe

4. Art for adults
During this activity we try to create a relaxed atmosphere. We drink tea, listen to music and work on art projects. This activity is organized three times per week.
Location: Kara Tepe

5. Board games
During this evening activity for adults, several board games are played twice a week, such as chess and checkers. Especially the men enjoy this opportunity to play board games in a quite setting.
Location: Kara Tepe

6. Emergency Childcare
The Emergency Childcare (ECC) is meant for emergencies, in situations when no caretaker is available due to specific circumstances. For example: hospital visits, emergencies or hospitalization, appointments at the clinic or sudden psychological or physical problems.
Location: volunteer house – and: free to plan, at a maximum driving distance of 15 minutes from camp Kara Tepe.

7: Social shift
In camp Moira every other day social shifts are organized. A small team of volunteers walks through the camp to chat with refugees in the camp.
Location: Moira

Accommodation Volunteers

The ‘mansion’ of the Boat Refugee Foundation is located close to the airport and offers a place to stay for our volunteers. It is the place where we organize meetings and share meals together. In addition it is a place to relax and socialize with other volunteers. It is also the starting point from where we carpool to and from shifts in the camps. The house has a small kitchen, living room, diner, two bathrooms and several shared bedrooms. The house has the feel and facilities of a hostel. You will share a room with at least two up to five others (male or female). Your roommates might sometimes have night shifts or different schedules than you. To live in the volunteer house, you pay the following:

  • The first month: € 10 per night
  • From the second month: free

It is not mandatory to stay in the house, you can also choose to find alternative accommodation.

In the volunteer house you can have your breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can cook/prepare your own meals, but usually, dinners are prepared together. The volunteers do the groceries together and share the costs. For the costs we ask for the following contribution: € 2 for breakfast, € 2 for lunch, € 4 for dinner.

Car rental
Due to the long distances between the different camps, it is necessary for our volunteers to have access to transportation. The Boat Refugee Foundation has organized several team cars for the volunteers. These cars can be used to drive between camps and the volunteer house. To be able to use them, you need a drivers license that is valid in Greece and you need to be able to drive a manual car. The costs for using the team-car, including gas are: The first month: € 7 per day. From the second month: free.

The cars are only meant to use for work. If you want to use the car for private trips, you need to discuss this with your colleagues first. In case of damage, the first € 100 are for your own expense.