Hell in Every Way: My Life Inside a Temporary Refugee Camp on Lesbos

In this temporary camp on Lesbos, the singles have been separated from the families. In the singles section in the early days we had little access to electricity. They brought water to the camp by tanker. The bathrooms were very few and smelled foul. After a while a healthcare facility was set up. Access to electricity is still very much a problem, though. The reason we had to delay this interview was because I did not have access to electricity.

I think all the refugees have now been assessed, except for the latest arrivals. Asylum seekers need three separate cards to complete their documentation, but the UN refugee office has not yet opened in the camp, as a result of which many refugees’ cards remain burned or damaged from the Moria fire. When we protest, we are told that we have to wait for the UN office to open.

Moria was hell in every way. It is true that I lived in the Dutch section, but the overcrowding caused tents to be erected on both sides of each road and access to sanitation and food was not easy. There was no respect for law and order in the camp and Greek police paid no attention.

Families have been deprived of these basic needs and long queues form for water. The population here is so large that a single family member can stand in line for two hours for food and another for the same amount of time for water. From eight o’clock in the morning when breakfast is served, long queues continue until eleven o’clock, and many do not receive breakfast at all.

This is not the biggest problem for refugees, though. The biggest problem is having our asylum applications processed and finding justice as a refugee. When a person is forced to become a refugee, he or she can endure the problem of water, electricity and food, but what we want most of all is for our asylum applications to be considered. What I, and other refugees who have taken the deadly risks of asylum, find when we get here is that actually our expectations are dashed and our dreams almost impossible to realize.

Inter-racial conflict arises because of the conditions in the camp. Médecins sans Frontières has warned many times that the situation in the camp is critical because the refugees are under a lot of pressure.

The first day I entered the camp, they asked for my general details and I registered. After six months, it was my turn to have a refugee interview, but the policy changed and they decided to interview the refugees who entered the camp after 2020. In practice, the interview of refugees like me was delayed. Finally, I was interviewed in this temporary camp and I am waiting for the answer to my asylum application, but it is not clear when they will announce it.

There were no major changes in the situation when the Covid-19 outbreak started. They handed out some low-quality disposable masks to refugees from time to time. The masks distributed in Moria were poorly made, but in the temporary Lesbos camp, the quality of the masks is a little better. No special health facilities were set up to deal with Covid-19, but instead they set up a quarantine section in the camp.

The fire in Moria was terrible. As it spread, we barely had time to pack up and escape the camp. We slept on the ground during that time. The situation was very difficult. Facilities such as toilets did not exist at all, and our only water source was a tap, which was only there to irrigate the land. During that time we used it for washing, cleaning and drinking. In the first days we prepared food with the money we had, but in subsequent days charities distributed food packages among us.

We were further away from the other refugees and near the ruined Moria camp. Early one morning the police came to us and forced us to pack up and go to the temporary camp on the island.

This first appeared on Maqshosh.

Morteza Rezaei is an Afghan refugee.