First they help the children. Then the women, then the dogs and then the cats. And then the men. Moria is where they put the men.
History tells us that it’s probably our own fault. For too long – the men came first. And we wasted that privilege on alcohol, sex, greed, status and violence. The NGO’s spend much of their time protecting others from men. I can see why we fell down the list.
Moria is where they put the men. But Moria is not filled with violent, hate filled men who have burnt their bridges. It may look like a prison. It certainly feels like prison. But the men in Moria are not there because they are prisoners – they are they because they are men.
The Boat Refugee Foundation uses refugees as interpreters. It’s not ideal – but it works well. It gives a small number of refugees the opportunity to help their peers whilst bettering their English and give me access to numerous affordable language skills. Importantly for me – it give me something else – my first access to refugees and a better chance to understand their journey and their situation.
Going to Moria for the first time is a bit intimidating. There are guards on the gate and the tall grey fences with barb wire aren’t very friendly. It’s my first shift – and the first refugees I meet are the interpreters. An hour later, I’ve met a chemistry student, a snooker player, a biomechanical engineer and a guy who straightens his hair in a refugee camp. An hour after that, I’ve been beaten at chess, been taught a traditional Afghan dance and seen pictures of a family picnic in Iraq. (Who knew that people went on family picnics in Iraq?!) It turns out that the men are in Moria, not because they are prisoners – they are there because they are men.
Later in the day – we are called to see a patient in the camp prison. BRFs Medical team are in Moria from 4pm – 9am and we will see all types of patients anywhere in the camp. The camp police have come to the medical cabin and asked us to come and see a patient who has collapsed.
The most striking thing about the Moria prison – is that it’s almost identical to the rest of Moria. The beds, the food, the atmosphere. The only real difference is that the prisoners are not free to come and go. If we ignore that – the prison looks a lot like ‘home’
Today it is good news. The patient has collapsed – but his problems are not medical. We are able to use the excellent BRF portable medical bags to assess him and he doesn’t appear to have significant medical issues. He is suffering a panic-attack – probably associated with some deep psychological scars. It looks scary – but it isn’t. We are able to calm the patient and reassure the police.
Like many – his problems are deep and psychological. I think this is good news – but I’m not sure. I’m pleased that the Boat Refugee Foundation is trying to address these issues as well. Our sister “Pyscho Social Support” team are busy trying to provide the refugees in the camp of Lesbos an outlet for these issues. This may just be an opportunity to sit and chat, it may be the social interaction provided at games nights or it may be the educational opportunities provided to learn English – or to learn more about western culture. I suspect it’s all these things. I suspect that all these things won’t be enough. They don’t replace a family or a home or a job. But I suspect it does make a difference. Just by being here – we make a difference. Here in Moria – where nobody cares; the Boat Refugee Foundation and a small number of NGO’s turn up daily and show that we care. We show that we understand that they are normal people. Not criminals. Not terrorists. Not anything really – just single men – who have nowhere else to go.
Text: Dave Clarke
Photo: Arie Kievit