Since July 2015 Boat Refugee Foundation has established itself in the north of the island of Lesbos. We co-operate closely with the other humanitarian organisation in that area and the logistics of the process in our location have been professionalised further. Our focus is on the arrival of refugees on the coast, in particular the most vulnerable among them: mothers, pregnant woman and children up to the age of 8.
Their arrival here is only step 1 in the Greek part of the journey of a refugee. They will remain in one of the smaller camps (Transit areas Oxy and Skala), before they continue to Camp Moria or Kara Tepe for registration as a refugee and to continue their journey. The living conditions in all camps are dramatic, with Camp Moria as an excess. We regularly receive questions about this, which fall into two categories:
1. Why has Boat Refugee Foundation not yet organized itself (structurally) in Camp Moria?
2. I can contribute to the improvement of the living conditions or the organisation of the registration process in Camp Moria; why won’t you use that to their benefit?
Becoming active in Camp Moria is something which is high on our wishlist. We are fully aware of the great needs in the camp. However, we do not want to get stuck in several ad hoc initiatives, but want to offer help on a structural basis. The lack of organisation and management complicates matters for us in this respect. Even though every initiative has value, we do not want to throw ourselves on a camp with 7.000 – 10.000 refugees with only some tents, sleeping bags or fruit. Consultations with the organisations that are present in Moria already are in full swing and we are working hard on a problem analysis and plan for aid, given the possibilities that we have as a foundation and in line with our mission.
The Greek government – more specifically the police (and Frontex) – are in charge of the registration process the refugees have to undergo. This is a complex administrative process which cannot be executed by another party, not even partially and not even by another Greek organisation; according to Greek law, this is not possible. Which is a shame, but a reality we cannot ignore. Even experts in administration and registration that have offered their services to us will not be able to mean anything in this area.
Apart from the registration process, the Greek police appears to undertake limited activity with regard to the living conditions of the people wanting to undergo this process. Things like lodging, food and hygiene (apart from some form of garbage disposal) are not yet sufficiently organised.
For this reason the government is supported by several parties, of which UNHCR is the most important. They advise the government on how to deal with the practical and humanitarian side of the situation.
We are in close contact with UNHCR and other parties around Moria, to see how we can contribute. For instance, we could deploy medical professionals to help the people living in the camps and are looking for sustainable ways to keep people dry, warm and safe and give them access to food.
When our presence in Moria makes more headway, we will announce it as soon as possible.
Photo: Peter de Jongste