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“We mustn’t forget the people who are stuck here”

23 Dec

“In the clinic we see increasingly complex psychological problems. That has everything to do with the uncertainty in which people find themselves,” says Renée van Hoof over the phone from Lesbos. She has been working there for Boat Refugee Foundation as a field coordinator for eleven months. She comes to Mavrovouni refugee camp almost every day.

“There is a big discrepancy between the people who just arrive in the camp and leave quickly and the people who have been trapped here for a long time. New arrivals go through accelerated procedures; often so quickly that they cannot get legal help and prepare for the important interview about their asylum application. They are pushed through the system at a tremendous speed. This creates a lot of uncertainty for them. At the same time, there are many people living in the camp who have been stuck there for a long time; some for three years.

We continue to focus on high quality care and attention for patients. We intervene in emergencies and provide care that the police cannot provide. As a medical actor in the camp, we remain as important as ever. In addition, we relieve the local healthcare system on Lesvos, which is now so overloaded by COVID. We will continue to dedicate ourselves with time, care and attention to providing adequate medical and psychological assistance to people on the run. We also try to give them a bit of humanity. We mustn’t forget the people trapped here. They are in the most difficult period of their lives. They have been taken from so much already. I hope that the European Union and Greece will establish humane procedures so that they are not burdened even more. They are not a pawn in a political chess game. They are people, like you and me.

As an NGO, we try to anticipate changing legislation and refugee flows as well as possible. For example, a law has just been passed that requires refugees who arrive on mainland Greece to start their procedure on the islands. It is up to us to prepare and adapt every time. We take our role as a watchdog seriously; from our position in the camp we keep our eyes and ears open to what is happening in the field. We do not remain silent about the human rights violations we see, but we exert as much influence as possible, often behind the scenes.”

Renée adds: “Inform yourself and speak out. Together we create awareness around people on the run. Make your fellow man, partner, neighbors and family aware of what is happening on the Greek islands. Together we can achieve a lot!”

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