Home News & Stories ‘Inside I held out hope that things would work out’


02 May

"I would like politicians to leave their offices, put on their shoes and come to the camp. To see how people live here."

These are Ariel’s words. The camp she is talking about is one of the refugee camps on the Greek islands. Like tens of thousands of other people on the move, she stayed there and experienced the horrors resulting from the overcrowding that followed the adoption of the EU-Turkey deal in 2016. We already shared that we are holding the Dutch state liable for the human rights violations resulting from the deal in our newsletter on April 8th and you may have seen news coverage of the case that day.

In preparation for the court case, we not only collected data and dug through hundreds of documents. We also collected stories (watch the video via the button). Stories of people who were held in the camps at the time and who are sharing their experiences. About sleeping in tents in the forest, with no mattress, no blanket. About hunger and cold, about sickness and lack of healthcare. About death. About endless queues at a single toilet or shower, about violence, unsafety and psychological distress. About lengthy procedures and being stuck in degrading conditions. “It was so, so, so horrible, this life. It was so dehumanising for me,” Kimulu says about his time in the camp.

Inhumane conditions damage people. Zain, now elsewhere in Europe, says: “I still experience the mental effects. The hoarding of food, the sleeping problems, the distrust of people. I still keep my important things together so I can get up and flee at any time.”

The numbers of people are, fortunately, not as high they were at the peak, or rather low point, when 40,000 people were trapped in the camps on the Greek islands. But people still face many of the problems outlined above on a daily basis. Since the summer of 2023, we have been reporting about the lack of housing, mattresses and blankets, the lack of hot water, inadequate and broken sanitation and insufficient food. And while we do what we can and help 80 people every day in our clinic, healthcare is also inadequate. For people with chronic diseases, proper care and medication is not available, leading to dangerous situations. And psychological distress remains high. A psychologist is therefore present in our clinic every day, so that we can help people with psychosomatic complaints or mental vulnerability right away.

Despite all the lack and misery, there are small rays of hope every day. In the conversations with people who visit the clinic. For our doctors, when they are able to help a patient. For our psychologists, who experience that people are not only vulnerable but also strong and resilient. That people continue to see light on the other side, keep hope for a better life when they are out of here. Ariel’s words touched me: “Even though we lived in bizarre circumstances, somewhere inside I held out hope that things would work out. Eventually.”

This human hope, in the midst of an inhumane situation, is inspiring. It is this hope that helps us to keep doing our work, sometimes against the odds.

Fortunately, we are not alone in this. Your continued support and commitment means everything. Contribute to humanity and essential care. Because only together we make a difference. You can make a donation here.


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