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Greece’s Eleonas Refugee Camp Is A Protected Haven For Afghan Refugees

Stone Island Hat Military GreenIf a police car wasn’t parked outdoors its entrance, you’d hardly be capable of guess that there’s a refugee camp on this Athens neighborhood. Parked trucks and junk yards surround the campsite, which had been empty till not too long ago. A wall and a sliding door forestall anyone from wanting inside. It is absolutely quiet stone island bodywarmer — only a few sounds come from the camp.

We enter the enclosure with a small group of Afghan refugees. The one documentation they’re required to show to get in are the non permanent residence cards they received upon arriving in Greece.

White makeshift houses are neatly lined up. Whoever wants to go away the camp has to go through a small house that serves as a reception. A sign on one in all its home windows reads “IN/OUT.” One other bungalow houses a medical center. The Crimson Cross operates out of it, and there’s a kitchen where the Greek Navy hands out meals. The children’s house is the most lively a part of the camp.

All types of individuals come and go: volunteers, employees of the Ministry of Migration and members of nongovernmental organizations. There are additionally people from the United Nations refugee company, the NGO “Praksis” and the government’s asylum services.

Most of the refugees in the camp are Afghans who want to keep away from camping out in public locations like Victoria Sq.. Many of them depart after two or three days, as soon as they receive cash wired to them from associates and kinfolk, which is able to fund the following leg of their journey.

I meet Sayed Ahman within the children’s tent. He is about two or three years previous and bursts into laughter each time he is teased. His dad, Atmajan, 42, got here to Greece together with his wife, little Sayed and his child brother, Etmah. The household set out from their hometown forty days ago leaving their seven and nine 12 months previous daughters with their grandparents.

“In Afghanistan I had a job, which was Ok contemplating the situation there, I drove an ambulance and lots of instances I worked for the UN,” Atmajan says. “But everyday life in Afghanistan is basically hard. There are the Taliban, the tribe leaders, the military even, you don’t know who you must guard your self from, who is fighting whom … Working with the ambulance I saw a variety of horrible things. We had to leave.”

I ask him about the route they followed. “In 15 days we crossed by Iran and in one other 5 through Turkey. Throughout the best way we have been with traffickers, we were scared to maneuver by ourselves. You’re feeling continually in danger, you simply go on with out figuring out exactly where you’re,” Atmajan says. From Turkey, their journey was so hasty that he solely remembers crossing over by boat. “These hours contained in the boat with my wife and two kids were probably the most dangerous,” he says.

Does he miss his daughters “We are speaking all the time, but our souls hurt and my wife cries on a regular basis,” Atmajan says. “We don’t know where we’re going to find yourself, but once we reach somewhere we are going to deliver the women, all be together again.”

Anthi Karaggeli of the Greek interior ministry says that there are rules within the camp, however persons are free to return and go. “We primarily want the folks to feel secure and calm inside the camp,” she says. “They want the calm, they have been by way of a lot. They have risked each their lives and the lives of their youngsters, so they are very emotional. Right here, they’ll catch their breath and keep going.”

There were small protests earlier than the camp opened at the end of August. “It was seven people all in all who protested, and they’re residents of the wider area because there isn’t a neighborhood right here,” Karaggeli says. “The quantity of people from Votanikos, from Eleonas, who arrive on the camp carrying clothes, meals, milk, and toys for the refugees’ youngsters is far bigger. And they convey their children with them to play with these children, even if they do not speak the same language.”

Within the camp there are ninety four little houses, ninety of which are occupied. Each house has 4 double bunk beds, a sink with some small cupboards, a toilet with a shower and air conditioning. The camp can hold 720 individuals. Two households of four can stay collectively, however single males traveling alone are sheltered in another part, not isolated however separate.

A refugee comes nearer. He wants to share one thing. He says he misplaced most of his money within the boat to the Greek island of Lesbos. He’s here on the camp with his family, seven folks in complete. The man says the trafficker requested for 1,000 euros for each particular person and half that amount for each child for them to continue the journey, however the family solely has 400 euros left.

“I don’t know what to do,” the man says. He shows a fresh scar on his forehead and says he was attacked by Pakistanis with sticks and stones when he was in Lesbos. The situation was really robust. “Here we are revered and taken care of,” he mentioned about circumstances in the camp. “We thank them, we thank you all.”

Mohamed, 22, and Khojand, 23, are Afghans, however they have been raised in Iran, where their families sought a safer future. They met on the journey to Greece and turned associates. Both men are thought-about “economic migrants.”

I find them listening to Iranian rap in a shady a part of the camp.
Mohamed and Khojand say they left Iran because the state treated them like second class citizens. They handed from Iran to Turkey, strolling for hours within the mountains, together with the traffickers. In some unspecified time in the future they had been robbed by locals who wanted to get the traffickers’ cash however ultimately took personal gadgets from their “cargo”. To travel from Iran to Turkey, Mohamed and Khojand say they paid $500 and another $1,000 to succeed in Lesbos on a dinghy.

It took them, and 35 others, two and a half hours to achieve European soil in the little boat. The sea was calm at first, then someplace on the way in which the boat’s engine crashed and began to flood. They had to empty the waters. “We had been actually scared,” they say.

“Here, all the pieces is nice,” Mohamed says concerning the camp in Eleonas. “There isn’t any such camp in Asia.”

It is getting darkish. Volunteers with the Greek Pink Cross entertain the youngsters with balls and drawing.

Katerina, a volunteer, says, “Despite their stress and fatigue, they are stuffed with vitality, typical kids. They’re so proud of the little things like painting. After they depart right here, they never cry, we always see them smiling.”

There are nights when the refugees gather in a circle and sing. “They calm down. And we with them. We overlook to go dwelling,” Karaggeli says.

All pictures courtesy of Menelaos Myrillas.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Greece and was translated into English. It has been edited for clarity.

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