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by Ellie Kimpton, work experience placement, Ysgol Maes Y Gwendraeth
Some perceive refugee camps as a safe haven for those who have fled terrible situations, but it is quite the opposite in many places. Recently conditions in several camps have come to light, and are quite unspeakable.
At the one on the Greek paradise island of Lesbos, critics have gone as far as to name it ‘The worst refugee camp in the world.” In a camp that should hold a maximum of 3000 people, at 7,500, good facilities are non-existent. There have been reports of a 6-hour queue for breakfast, leaving refugees to wake at 3 a.m. in order to start queuing to ensure that their family are fed at least something. Additionally, with a short water supply and at one toilet per 70 people, tensions in the camp are constantly high, plaguing it with constant fighting, disease and trauma. As a result, many charities have stopped working in the camp in protest.
Children as young as 10 years old have attempted to commit suicide and with no psychologists present, it is difficult to even comprehend the conditions. People there at feel like they “have no life”.
In a BBC report, Luca Fontana, who works at the Lesbos camp, spoke about camps he witnessed in Congo during the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak and still thought that the Lesbos camps were worse; “I’ve never seen the level of suffering witnessed here every day.”
With sectarianism and racism a constant factor, and crimes such as rape and sexual harassment being committed on a daily basis, it is hard to imagine this a place for a 4-year-old to grow up. Unfortunately, this is the case for many, and because of a deal between the EU and Turkey, the Greek government are holding more people in Lesbos rather than releasing them onto the mainland. People keep trying to seek asylum but the centre at the camp is always ‘closed’.
With insufficient funds, the camp is in desperate need. Greece being a MEDC (more economically developed country), I question whether enough money is being invested in camps like this one, and if it was, would the conditions be different? We are right to see conditions in camps on the American border with Mexico deplored, but shouldn’t forget camps closer to home have not been much better. I will leave you with a comment from a refugee currently staying at Lesbos that I believe sums up the refugee camp crisis well;
“For 3 years I have trusted the sea would take me somewhere better…but the sea has betrayed me”
Information References – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v-OHi3iGQI
Photo credit: Iordanis Stylidis