We need bridges that connect, not the walls that separate
A few days ago, I woke up as usual and got ready to go to my class. As I walked along, I noticed some bulldozers and many workers working by the back gate, constructing something. They had already laid down some long, red metal rods. When I asked them about them, they told me that they were going to build a wall all around the camp. They also told me that wall would be 3 meters high and the project would finish in a month.
The Ritsona camp has been an open structure for years. It should not, under any circumstance, become a closed structure. This assertion is not based on a theoretical and idle consideration of the
concept of detention. It is based on the paramount concept of social integration as a policy and aspiration for immigrants and refugees. A closed camp not only makes the goal of integration with the local society impossible, it also violates the most basic human rights of the inhabitants of the camp and deprives
them of that minimum freedom of movement they have had. The people of Ritsona have not committed any crime for which they need to be kept apart from the rest of the world around them. The people of Ritsona need to be seen and acknowledged in their humanity and the rights that derive from their humanity.
Silence reigns in the camp. The only pre-occupation of all the people relates to their interviews and the process of their asylum applications. Very few of them, if any, know about the construction of the wall. No announcement has been made in this regard.
What they might be aware of is that the minister of immigration, Mitarachis, has declared that only the camps on the Greek islands will become closed structures.
The money spent on the construction of walls could be used, instead, to make a better life for those living in the camps, a life that safeguards the integrity and dignity the people. It could be used to cover their
medical needs, their educational needs, their psychological needs. There is no justification for walls that imprison and stigmatise those who, leaving behind threatening existences, sought refuge in this country.
These walls should never become a reality. We should not become prisoners with no offence or crime. We should all come together and, united, standup against it.
Give us your support. Give us your solidarity. Don’t allow them to cut us off. Don’t accept this indignity of exclusion, of violation of rights, of injustice.
A refugee is someone who, once, had a normal life, a home for his family, a school for his children, a hospital. He enjoyed respect and dignity. He had friends, relatives and basic humans rights. He had dreams, hopes, plans for the future. What he did not have was safety. That was taken from him by political and economic games.
A refugee is that brave father and that courageous mother, who
pluck their courage to protect their family and choose to leave their
country and undertake a voyage with death lurking along the way.
A refugee is a person who struggles many years, in many
countries, his safety always threatened, his days filled with the
sounds of bombs and explosions. A refugee is a person who has
seen the hospitals and schools destroyed under fire.
A refugee is a person, who amid the bombs, the explosions, the
fires, he does not give up his hopes for a new life for himself and
his children, for safety, for peace, for nights with dreams rather
than nightmares. A refugee dreams of a day when the news do not
report numbers of killed or injured, do not recount bloody suicide
A refugee is a human being who is as normal as thousands of
other human beings who constitute the population of this world.
The difference between him and those others is the place where
his luck decided he would be born.
A refugee is a mother who gives birth to children whose lives she
will not enjoy. She does not rejoice at their birth. A pregnant
refugee woman can listen to the heartbeat of her baby inside her,
but she cannot hear her child’s laughing or crying in the crowded,
noisy and chaotic world of refugee life.
A refugee is that powerful, courageous and freedom seeking
member of a family, who cannot accept that his rights and freedom
A refugee is an orphan child, a single mother, old parents,
vulnerable people, victims of wars who gathered all their courage
in a back pack and who, holding their children’s hands, passed
thousands of miles of distance, walked over mountains, often losing their way, tolerated hunger and thirst, crossed borders, faced all sorts of difficulties, including humiliations and indecencies
by border guards who treated them as criminals. The women,
among them, faced the worst physical violence, being raped not
only during the voyage, but even in the camps where they found
themselves enclosed. Those women did not face violence from
strangers alone. Even more tragic, they faced the violence from
their fathers, brothers and husbands, violence unleashed, in them,
by the horrible conditions of their lives.
Yet, in spite of all these hardships, a refugee is the one who did
not resigned, but held in the back of his mind the promise of light
that for millions of refugees was the light called Europe.
Thus a refugee is someone who after many failed attempts, after a
number of pushbacks, even deportations, insists on reaching that
promised light, that Europe.
And what does any and every refugee find reaching that promised
land of Europe? Certainly not a new life! What awaits him are
discrimination, inequality, repression, segregation as if prisoners,
exclusion and deprivation of the most basic human rights — all
these in a climate of total uncertainty about their future.
A refugee is a single woman, an unaccompanied girl who is put in
the so called “safe zones “ where life is threaten by those very
people who live inside such a zone. A refugee is single mother
living in a tent near a tent of men who drink alcohol and lose
control over their actions.
A refugee is a fighter who struggles to keep his hopes and not to
give up. Yet even those fighters can be defeated and find solace in
But there are dreams behind their clenched fists, there are
demands behind their repressed voices. There are pains behind
their smiling faces. There is passion in their writings, there are
sparkles in their eyes, there are wings in their soul, there are
screams in their strained throats.
A refugee is a girl like me, who is writing every night what she
experiences everyday. Every night, before she falls asleep she
proclaims her dreams in the hope that she will reach them one day. She is fighting against injustice, like many who are fighting
After a bomb attack, in the city of Herat, Afghanistan, which injured my leg terribly, I went to Iran. The doctors there wanted to amputate my leg. Luckily for me, there were some American doctors who did not agree and only operated on it. For five months after the operation, I had to use crutches and, after that period, I could start walking properly.
At that point, I decided to stay in Iran because I could find a job there. My family did not agree with my decision and were very displeased. The truth is that I was dealing with many difficulties, with many problems: I was not given an identity card; I had no access to social benefits and no access to education and health care. Not succeeding to get an identity card, I was disappointed and discouraged and felt humiliated by the reactions of the people around me.
I have many bitter memories from my life in Iran. The worst one is the treatment I faced when I went to buy bread from the bakery. The police saw me and started chasing me. Somehow, I managed to ran into the building where I worked. The police followed me inside and asked my fellow workers whether they knew and saw me entering. Thank God, they directed them away from my hiding place and I was rescued. That incident was very stressful and scared me terribly. I really didn’t want to be arrested and be deported back to Afghanistan.
I was working in Iran for 4 years, but I was not content at all and could not envision a decent future for me in that country. It was then that I spoke with a smuggler and arranged for me and some of my friends to cross the Iranian border into Turkey. While passing the border, the police shot on us.
Fortunately none was injured. What a horrible scene!
Three months after I arrived in Turkey, I started working in a restaurant that was run by Turkish people in Van city. My salary was satisfactory, but I had to work like a machine to survive. That could not be called a life. I worked for three years in that restaurant, but there was no change in my life. I just went on and on, without any improvement in the conditions of my life. Every day
was the repetition of the previous one. I felt powerless with no strength, no desire or inspiration to continue that life.
Nevertheless, during those three years, I managed to put aside some money and I decided to use my savings to pay smugglers to get me out of Turkey.
After spending 3 nights in a forest my group was arrested by the police. I did not give up. I made two more attempts and the third time around I succeeded to cross from Turkey to Lesvos, Greece.
I arrived at the Moria camp, on Lesvos, in July 2019. They gave me a tent as a single man. Many people in the camp who suffered disabilities and were vulnerable were transferred to other places. Although my disability made life in Moria very difficult for me, I was not given the opportunity to be transferred from the island to the mainland. So, I decided to continue my journey illegally.
And I managed to get by ship to Athens and, from there, to the Ritsona camp, a few kilometres outside the city.
I reached Ritsona on 18 March 2020. Upon my arrival, however, my cash card, which allowed me access to the allotment given by the Greek government to refugees, was cut off. The camp didn’t want to register me since my trip over had not been authorised by the camp in Moria.
Here my world is dark and, as time goes by, I am getting more and more depressed. I found a bed to sleep in one of the prefabricated houses, but I was not allowed to stay there during the day and I had to leave the house.
From morning till evening, I wandered around the camp keeping myself busy moving from one place to another, speaking with the owners of the small markets that had been organized by refugees in the camp.
Later on, I decided to find another solution to my need for a shelter. I constructed a small makeshift tent to give myself a safe roof and avoid becoming a weight on the arms of other people. Of course, I have no oven here, no heater, no toilet, no electricity. I am absolutely alone and there is no consideration for my life.
I fear that I will lose my hope, my motivation and my concentration about my life, as there is no activity for anyone of us. I am interested in history and, as much as I can, I have been reading and researching on my own.
I don’t know how long this uncertain condition will continue. Stuck in this prison, how could I gain some freedom? How long should I and many like me live here?
While all the European countries present themselves as defenders of human rights, why are we left totally alone?
When my wife and I immigrated to Iran, the Iranian government threatened us with deportation. That was exactly the moment we discoverd that my wife was pregnant and it was then that we started praying for a miracle.
My youth had been poisoned by discrimination. The mere idea that my child could also become victim to similar discrimination was unbearable. That prospect became a nightmare burning my might. So we decided that we should leave Iran and seek a better place for our child to grow up, no matter what the risks of such a journey would bring. We wanted our child to be born in a place of safety, of peace, of future possibilities.
My parents were totally against our decision, for they were very vulnerable and there was no one to take care of them, once we were gone. But for us, there was no other option. We were not going to become spectators of our child s unhappy life.
The journeys of refugees are never without risks, without dangers and without hardships. But every refugee who embarks on his journey has, at least, one most horrible experience, one most unbearable moment, never to be forgotten. For us the worst part of our journey was the sea, when my wife was trying to tolerate her belly’s pains, in order not to be arrested by the polices while crossing the border. At that terrible moment as we were crossing, we could never imagine that we we would end up in this dreadfulcamp, in the margins of Europe.
As for many refugees, my life, so far, had been without joy, without certainties, without belief in a possible better future. With the coming of our child, however, I could, no longer, accept the continuation of such an existence. I started taking steps for a better life and a brighter future. I started making changes in our environment.
For eight years in Iran, I was a farmer and, over those years, I gained a valuable experience in farming. I decided to apply that experience and I started planting different plants, mostly vegetables, in small plots close to our house and with access to water.
I want the world to listen to my voice, to listen to my words. I believe that every individual should be able to work in the field they want and have experience in. Only then, will they be able to develop to reach their potential and earn a dignified income. Passion is a key to success, self improvement, and strenght. In no way, should it be repressed or hidden.
I was getting depressed before, but farming, sowing plants, giving them water, being outside in the fresh air rescued me from the dark and heavy feelings that oppressed me. All the same, however, working here is not easy as it may seem to passersby. Neither has it brought a revolution in my life.
While working the land has given me some relief, every single moment, my thoughts are with my wife who is suffering from diabitis and hypertension. My thoughts are also always with my new born baby who is only five months old and badly sick.
Our journey to Europe has badly damanged the health of my wife. Her sugar level is very high and it has provoked two miscarriages. This baby was our last hope, because the doctors had warned us that my wife might not be able to get pregant. Unfortunately, she is now dependent on a medicine which she takes three times per day. She also needs to have insulin everyday.
Yet, all these difficulties do not prevent me from feeling joy seeing our own crops grow, in spite of the limited facilities at my disposal. I am also content that we will be able to sell part of the crops to the
inhabitants of the camp at a lower price than that asked by the local sellers, even though their fruits and vegetables are often of very bad quality.
I am a proud farmer. I want to live my life, my world, my future, my hopes and dreams in a green land,where I can exert my energy not have it supressed.
”Here is the world of moving statues. Here is the world of ghosts”
Yes, everyone is alive, but without a soul, without a purpose, without the energy of inspiration and desire that animates all life.
Their only wish is to cross Greece’s frontier and reach another European country. There is no light of hope here, and we are all fading away. Here, the day is lived waiting for the night and the night waiting for the morning.
Here, the pregnant women end the last days of their pregnancy in regret, in repentance. They are beset by compunction for their children’s future and dread that their new-born babies will have the same fate as themselves. They pray that their babies will not have the same experience and, with these thoughts and fears, they blame themselves for carrying these babies in their wombs.
Here, babies are born in the ambulance, in prefabricated houses or in containers. Their umbilical cord is not cut by a doctor, but by the crude blade of a midwife. The blood is wasting for hours, and in this traditional world, the baby who is born in the darkness of the night is called star-crossed.
Here, children are born, grow up, and pass the most decisive years of their life among metal containers and prefabricated houses, where every day is the same, an endless repetition, with no variety, no learning, no schooling. They all suffer from abject neglect.
Here, some girls get so lonely and so desperate that they even consider suicide. Sometimes, in their terrible loneliness, they lose their better judgement and trust any poisonous person around them. Yet, it all starts when the bonds of the families break down. The parents blame their sons and daughters for their behavior and they, in turn, blame their parents for their condition. For it was the parents who decided to leave their country and home and become refugees. The fact is, of course, that those poor parents could never imagine what their life would be like, once they crossed the borders and reached Europe. The generations do not understand each other, each lost in its own pains.
Here, the young boys resort to alcohol, as the only way to reduce the stress they are suffering. And when alcohol fails to alleviate their stress, they start using drugs, which come to them from different people’s hands.
Here, people are like rings in infectious chains. It is enough that one thing be used by one person and it will be used by many others. It suffices that one boy smokes for others to start to smoke too. Independently of theiage, young boys and old men alike have but one goal: find the money, not for food, but to pay traffickers to help them cross illegal borders. Self organized businesses, mini markets and shops are the main activities to keep themselves busy and earn money – money which is the only means to try to move on to some other more hospitable place.
Here, the family units are broken easily and the crude promises from the authorities make this easier. For example, they say that those who get divorced, can find safe shelter. What they do not mention, however, is how long the shelter will be available and all the consequences that will fall upon them again.
Here, during the night, safety for adult kin refugees is to walk in the camp together, one the guardian of the other. Here, safety means to have the police, even though they do not intervene even when the conditions give way to chaos. But if there is talk about a sword, a knife, a stack of things, the secret polices appears immediately.
Here, life for the ones who do not want to become addicted, waste their life, or change the direction of their life, is to be fast, clever, careful, go along with the many, but, in reality, stay alone with his/herself.
Here, people prefer to lock themselves at home, not only because they are afraid they may get infected by the corona virus, but also because they are afraid of getting infected by many poisonous people.
Here, there are women who cannot come out of their houses in the absence of their male kin. The door is locked on them and even when they are facing violence they should hide their pains, they should not refer the violence even to the doctor. They should put their hands on their mouths, in order to prevent other people from becoming aware of their condition. The fact is that they all know the end of this line, they know that a place called “safe house”, is not safe for a long time. Neither is there a safe fate for their children.
Here times are reversed for all, night is day and day is night. Here people’s lives are inverted. Here peace and quite are only apparent. Underneath this appearance, there is chaos everywhere.Traditions and customs are suffocating for all.
Here, the safe way of raising a voice is found in the writings of a young girl. She is writing about the black and white world of the inhabitants of the Ritsona refugee camp, their lives lived like moving statues. Her sharp pen carves the blank pages of her notebook with her words. Yet, she is hoping for something else. She is hoping to write about her dreams, not the pains around herself.
I am that young girl. Yes, I am trying to live, not to become a moving statue, not to be repressed, not to be confronted by the next generation’s questions, asking why I did not act. We are changed by authorities, those who are preventing us from thinking, speaking up, acting in order to keep our dignity, respect and honor.
We come from far away lands – lands of war, violence, misery. Our lives were threatened every day, every hour, every minute. So we plucked our courage and we left in search of a better, a secure and safe future — for ourselves and our children. We traveled in fear, facing all sorts of difficulties, all sorts of dangers and threats. Finally, we reached Europe.
We have been in the refugee camp of Moria, on the island of Lesvos, for months and months. It felt like a prison, it felt like hell. Nobody cared for us. And whenever some people tried to help, they met hostility and persecution from the authorities.
After many months spent in that hell, lining in queues for food, water, medical care, to use the toilets or the showers; after many months surviving in squalor, with sewage water running along our tents, garbage piling up; suffering the cold, the rains, the heat with no adequate protection against the elements; after many months of humiliation, repression, uncertainty and fear of the violence that broke among the people cramped up in that prison, we managed, on our own, to leave that hell and arrive in Athens. Did we make the wrong decision?
Here we are now: in Victoria square, in the capital of Greece! We pass our nights in the open, suffering cold during the night and heat during the day. Our children, hungry, play with naked feet. To use a toilet, we can only go to the restaurants around, but the owners are often unwilling to give us permission to use them. All our possessions are stuffed in a suitcase. We use our few clothes as pillows under our heads and we share some blankets with each other during the night. While the rest of the world is sleeping we are awake, because danger threatens us each moment here, in Victoria square. Smugglers approach us, asking for money and promising a safe passage to other European countries. How can we trust them? Dispossessed, displaced, alone, we are at the mercy of strangers.
The shade of trees is our only protection, but they do not protect us from the eyes of the passersby. Look at us! What you see is the reality of our life, not a theater drama or a dramatic film. Don’t bow your head to avoid our sight and pretend that you don’t know what is happening to us. Don’t avoid us as if we were carriers of disease, or criminals threatening your life. And don’t pretend you support us by taking our pictures and posting them in your facebook. Our children are not actors performing in the films you shoot without asking us. They have their own dreams they long to reach. Will they be allowed to?
Is it a crime to say ‘no’ to injustice?
Is it a crime to demand our basic human rights?
Is it a crime to struggle for a better life?
Is it a crime to demand the satisfaction of our basic needs?
Is it a crime to challenge what you call “democracy”?
Voice of Unaccompanied minors – Letters from Refugees(moria) to the World No:6
by Parwana Amiri Evacuate us from [strict] closed camps!
Normally, 24 million kilowatts potential energy exists in a person`s body. This amount of energy can supply the electricity of a small town for one week.
But I repress, stifle, waste all that energy, because of psychological problems every day. I am one among hundreds of unaccompanied minors who live in one of the most crowded refugee camps of Europe.
Here is Moria camp overcrowded with thousands of persons from every region of the world, with different backgrounds, different experiences and different mentalities. This diversity and complexity make the living conditions for hundreds of unaccompanied minors, be it boys or girls, physically and psychologically harder and harder.
A simple summer tent for shelter seems a dream for us. We have passed many days sleeping in the road. Instead of having access to useful education, we are learning how to steal, to use drugs, to trick the girls. And every day, we make plans how to get out of this prison.
I am an unaccompanied minor, who covered thousands of kilometers over deserts and borders to come to Europe. The sky was like my father and the ground was my mother. I passed the distances, counting stars, lonely and dreaming of a bright future.
I came here in order to have a brighter future, but what is happening to me and the other minors like me, is that we are losing our hopes and our future looks dark.