“I want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important…” excerpt from Home
By Warsan Shire
And so war, conflict and brutality, rape, pillage and greed has forced thousands to seek refuge elsewhere . As with any Mother, any Father worthy of the title, they take their children, they sent their children, to a place of safety, a land of peace, except in return we have offered little more than hatred, despised their ever being here, shunned their attempts at integration and spat on their need to find refuge, temporarily, before returning home…a home destroyed by greed and business of War.
Thankfully, there are good people, of all faiths and colour, of all nationality and gender who realize this is one world, not a world that in which should exist a them and us system, where apartheid on any scale is immoral. where xenophobia should be nothing more than an odd sounding word. People , who when asked for help, help.People who have not forgotten history and realize it could so easily be us or our children/grandchildren one day…
We are still here in Samos, a beautiful Greek Island where refugees have been arriving for many many months now. All the refugees arriving on the island are arrested and taken to the RIC otherwise known as the camp or the hotspot. ( Abbreviations and acronyms seem to be a backbone of the large NGO’s and have never been something I can keep up with or see a point to ). Most if not all of those seeking refuge through the Samos camp are here for over 4 months now. A cold , wet winter which has now evolved into an extremely hot summer was/is spent in a camp not fit for purpose.
Samos camp is an old military barracks now holding up to 900 people, others are now housed out side the camp ( some but not yet all the unaccompanied minors, vulnerable families etc) . It is not fit for purpose! It is built on a steep incline and the camp itself is a steep incline. Elderly, disabled , babies, pregnant woman, those injured from war are the main residents .It comprises two sections, the old ( upper ) section and the new ( lower) section. The upper section is tiers of old cabins, rusty, bad plumbing, no ventilation packed closely together with many tents and man made shelters in between for those still with out containers. The newer lower section have better cabins, more ventilation and cleaner areas. Regularly there is no running water in the camp and never too much hurry from anyone to address the problem when its reported. Until recently, the only shading in the camp from a viciously hot sun was in and around the Asylum officers containers, although tellingly not directly outside the container where residents of the camp must queue for hours in the midday sun. ( This is still the case but Samaritans purse, one of the very few NGO’s who are actually doing something in the camp have taken on the responsibility of maintenance including shading) The volunteers themselves have already erected shading over the tent being used as a school and run by the refugees themselves.The container that was burnt out a few months ago is still there, a health hazard, an eyesore and a waste of valuable space with nobody seemingly willing to accept responsibility , We actually offered to take it away, and reuse the space but were told it is “all in hand”.. ITS STILL THERE!
There is no access to wifi for the camp residents. We bring this up at co ordination meetings each week, and we will continue to do so. For me personally this is so important. We ( Derek and I ) have been shot at, locked up, imprisoned and lived in war zones. In these situations it is vitally important to be able to communicate with family, vital to be able to research your options when little to no information is being given to you. Without access to internet the Skype calls that the asylum offices suggest as a way to further your applications can not happen, the information online from all the NGO’s is not accessible, news from home can not be followed . Sadly, it can not even be put down as a “area signal ” problem as UNHCR and all the other main actors have had access to internet from day one! Sadder still when Article 19 has been adapted to include Human Rights Online!!!
For those of you who don’t know, Article 19 is part of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as stated by The Human Rights Council by The United Nations. Article 19 states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The adaptation of Article 19 consists of 15 points…with number 1 stating .“Affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”
The volunteers on the island, as I am sure at all the other camps, originally came here, or for those already living on the island, became involved, to fill in the gaps inevitably left by those who use “working hours “and “bureaucracy ” as an excuse, have ultimately become the backbone of the camps. Locals and Internationals have distributed the clothes, pitched the tents, carried the water, provided the transport etc etc.
For Derek and I, we were always and still are Human rights activists, not humanitarian workers, but human rights is very pluralistic and may consist of the right to freedom of expression, or the right to a shelter, the right to access to information or the right to basic clean water. We adapt, like all the volunteers, to changing situations, we take our lead from those in the camp and what they need and when. We are not and hopefully have never come across as being Moral police , we live in the situation we are in. It is because of this belief and this attitude that we are accepted by those we work with who find themselves at this juncture living in a camp, we work alongside those in this situation not for them, we assist in their needs as they do ours at times. We believe in all aspects of a dignified life, even at the lowest and hardest of times and so we , alongside helping to provide vitals, have initiated a cafe where all are welcome to share a coffee and a chat, cricket matches where team work and competition go hand in hand , we are working on adult craft evenings ( knitting, crochet etc) . We offer lifts to ferries and airports when needed, we socialize, converse, eat and drink together.
We have also come to realize that of those who arrived over 4 months ago , many have now used up pretty much all their savings. Food is of such a low standard in the camp that many have had to supplements their families diet themselves, the lack of wifi means to stay in touch , phone cards must be bought regularly. We try to ensure and provide toiletries, sanitary items, bags for travelling, we purchase tea, coffee, sugar, juice for the cafe, transport costs money, we supplement some families in more need at a particular time for personal items,. We use our own phones to allow people to contact home whenever credit allows. We are providing refreshments at the cricket match, lifts to appointments and whatever else we can. We are concentrating a lot of our concerns and time on the plight of the Palestinian Syrians here in Samos who are not being given time or information from the main actors /authorities.
It is for these reasons we ask regularly for your help via donations and through sharing our updates.
“no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here”
Please continue to do what you can to help, It is only through your support we can continue, be it here in Samos for now or wherever we are most needed in the future. W are in desperate need of funds and any help is greatly appreciated. We are not funded, salaried or stipended. Paypal address :https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=6N9E4XQ36XGJL
Go fund me page :https://www.gofundme.com/278zukw4
facebook: no more borders No more tears
Twitter : @nomoreborders1
FULL POEM … http://seekershub.org/blog/2015/09/home-warsan-shire/