Being close to people, no matter what: why we are going to work inside the camp
The past weeks we shared with you our dilemma of whether or not we should work within the gates of the new camp. The decision was very difficult, because working in the camp would somehow make us part of the system of an inhumane migration policy that we do not support.
Local care system overburdened
At the moment the need for care in the camp is enormous. The hospital in Mytilini is overburdened, in part due to COVID. It cannot handle the additional pressure, which in turn impacts the ability to sufficiently help residents of the camp. This is unacceptable: medical care is a human right that can be denied to no one. We will do everything in our power to prevent this.
Regardless of the circumstances, offering the best possible medical care to refugees will remain our most important mission. In order to do this, we need to be close to the people. This also means being literally close, by way of our mobile clinic. Only this way we can continue to guarantee the quality of our care. In our opinion, timely and appropriate access to our new work area weighs up against the question of being located inside or outside the gates.
Poor living conditions
At the moment a new section of the medical area is being set up. We are the first medical organization to be present in this new area; our brand-new working area is still surrounded by excavation machines and construction materials. Hopefully this week will see the arrival of the iso-boxes, so that we can build a waiting area and a sheltered and covered space for the triage, to provide protection against weather influences.
The past days have seen a lot of extreme winds. The north-western sea-wind hits the camp full-on and is extremely cold. Fortunately, it hasn’t rained yet, but the wind makes is difficult to work in an open space. Not to mention what it is like to have to live in a tent under these weather circumstances.
Deploying our expertise
After all, we took the difficult decision to recommence our work inside the medical area of the new camp. Hopefully we will be able to start in two weeks. As in the previous camp we will offer emergency care during the evening hours. Because no other medical organization offers (emergency) care in the evening, this is the gap that we will fill.
In order to fulfil this urgent need, we are glad to deploy our expertise right there and close to the people. Particularly with emergency care, when every second counts, quick access is crucial. Because we are the only medical organization operating in the evening hours and because we have our own clinic, we can act as independently as possible. This was and still is an important condition for us.
By re-starting our emergency care, we also want to alleviate the Greek care system. The closer to the camp we can operate, the better. Due to the growing number of people in the camp, the past years have seen an increasing demand for care on the island, but hospitals have no money to expand. The entire island counts only three ambulances. These are often used for the camp, which understandably leads to frustration amongst Greek locals.
Emergency care ánd activism
We are conscious that we choose to work in a system which we actually condemn. We acknowledge this and we struggle with it. It is still our belief that the new camp is not the solution for the ongoing inhumane situation on Lesbos and the other Greek islands. That is why we will continue to advocate for relocation, evacuation and humane sheltering. As direct witnesses of the situation we will continue to speak up about the gross violation of human rights that we see and hear on a daily basis, even louder than we did before.
At the same time this doesn’t weigh up to the fact that people are being denied the right to live. That is why we believe activism cannot exist without emergency relief – and vice versa.
So we will do both: while we say a resounding NO against inhumanity, we will continue to say an equally resounding YES to compassion and standing up for human rights. We hope you will continue to battle together with us as you have always done.