Home News & Stories Between migration deals and a little joy


25 Mar

On March 17, the European Union signed an agreement with Egypt. In exchange for Egypt's commitment to prevent people from fleeing to Europe, the country will receive over 7 billion euros in support over the next few years. 7 billion euros of European money for a dictatorial regime that acts against the European values of democracy and human rights in every possible way. And all to prevent people on the move - from Gaza and Sudan, among others - from coming to Europe in search of the protection they so desperately need.

It is cynical that such amounts of money are released without blinking an eye for deals with countries that we know with certainty violate human rights in the most terrible ways. While the reception and protection of people on the move in Europe is seriously lacking, and the lack of capacity we keep talking about – “but we cannot take everyone in, can we?” – is solely a matter of political will and, indeed, the proper investment of resources.

Meanwhile, in the camps on the Greek islands, the overcrowding is decreasing somewhat as many people have been transferred to the Greek mainland. Nevertheless, the number of patients we see daily in our clinic remains as high as ever. During my visit to Lesvos in late February, the camp manager told me with some pride that it was almost certain that there will be hot water again next winter. Next winter! This is how low the bar is: it is now completely acceptable for thousands of people, after a winter without even a drop of hot water, to have to endure this for at least another six months.

But the camp management is also doing its job against the grain: there is hardly any budget available. The camp is visibly deteriorating. People are living in conditions that are shameful. The dependency on what humanitarian organisations offer in terms of support is high. This definitely goes for health care: without the care we provide, supported by a few other organizations, almost nothing remains.

A little joy

Meanwhile, some small but positive developments: we were able to replace the tent, which is part of our clinic and serves as a waiting and triage area, with a beautiful new tent; a gift from a partner organisation. Hugely appreciated, as the old tent was in dire need of major maintenance. Our fantastic team on site, with united efforts, took down the old tent, set up the new one and beautifully refurbished the interior space; all without interrupting the care we provide. In the midst of a situation that sometimes seems hopeless, it is good to also focus on the small things: the care we are able to provide to people who so desperately need it and the safe space that our clinic is in the camp – a space which is now a bit more beautiful and pleasant. Patients and our team are feeling a little happier in the now bright space. The weather is milder, which makes everything seem a little less grim, and we are getting ourselves and the clinic ready for summer. Just a little longer and the pouring rain and wind make way for the blistering heat against which we must provide shelter.

As more people are being transferred to the mainland, we are scaling down the psychosocial care we provide in inner-city Athens and are orienting ourselves to providing care to people staying in the refugee camps in and around Athens. Here, too, there is an increasing lack of care, especially psychological and social care. We are doing so in coordination with partner organisations so that together, with the limited resources and organisations available, we can provide the best possible care to people who so desperately need it.

None of this would be possible without our amazing team, with so many skilled and professional volunteers, who not only work with their heads and hands, but also with their hearts. And together with you, our committed supporters and donors. Many, many thanks for your continued support and commitment!

Keep engaging, keep giving, keep listening to your hearts, 

Esther Vonk


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