Engage! - Postcards from the Border. · information & sharing · media

Eating together- Rare moments of freedom on Lesvos.

Some friends from our justpeople collective are supporting at the greek border for a little over a month now. Laura gives a personal account of  what is happening and what they have been doing on Lesvos.

We’ve now been here for a month. With one month to go we arrived in the middle of the project. Time for an update!

What is going on on the island?

Firstly, I have met amazing people and I have learned a lot already in terms of hospitality and culture. At the moment, I am, clumsily, learning Persian. With friends I meet we do a mutual learning thing with German and English. That’s fun! Now about the setting here on Lesvos and its capital, Mytilini:

Some things remain the same. The most important to mention here is the endless waiting for a lot of people. Waiting and nothing to do. Doctors without borders published an update recently. They observe depression, people with signs of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. On Lesvos, there is no adequate treatment for this. This matches well with this intense feeling I get here: How can it be possible to leave people who experienced trauma just before (war, misery, dangerous journey) without any psychological care in a state of limbo with nothing to do? Creating the next trauma?

“Why are they treating us like animals? Why are we trapped here?  I will never forget Moria.”, exclaims Alissa. She just cannot understand why they do not let her go. By now, she lost all hope in a better life in Europe. She would go back to her home country. But no, she is trapped. As around 2000 people more.

The perspective on Lesvos is that all NGOS are asked to leave the island. All autonomous living initiatives are under more and more repression. This includes a lot of police checks for no further reason other than looking “refugee-like” (sorry for using this expression, it is a sad truth). Which makes it more and more difficult to leave the camp area of Moria. And in Moria there is tension between the different groups living there (and no counselling), nothing to do and bad food. Three weeks ago, an autonomous living space was evicted by the police. The people who were living there now fear heavy charges. This space was “a home. It was a community.” It was one of the few places, where the inhabitants could decide about their life themselves, where they could live in autonomy. They could cook their own food and share it together. This essential thing, eating and sharing food, is incredibly important here, where you are deprived of all opportunities to make decisions freely. Those are rare moments of relaxation, freedom and laughter.

3 eat

I have felt warmly honored to be invited to food. To eat together, to share. It teaches me a great lesson on hospitality and warmth. Regardless, or maybe precisely because of the sticky prison feeling all around you.

The documentary

Right now, I am collecting testimonies of people who live on the island. I feel it’s an important thing to do as the hardship of so many people screams of injustice. I am also speaking to very inspiring migrants, activists and migrant-activists. There was a week when I felt sad about everything. And this is a feeling that can catch me and everyone here any moment. Yet I am also determined to take the news from here, the people I meet and the things I learn back to Europe, back to the Netherlands, back to Germany.

How do I feel?

I believe in autonomy as an essential part of dignity. That is what makes it hard here, because as stated above, everything here points to more control, more repression and more centralization of migrants in Moria.
Everything you do here has so many layers. Your privilege is sticking to everything. Every action you take is some kind of a compromise. For example if I meet up with one person to help out or to learn a language together, there is always so many people that you cannot meet at the same time. There is always an advantage for some. And how ever much I engage in the daytime, I am the one who has a rented apartment for the time being here. I can close the door. And most importantly: I can leave this island. I will leave this island soon.
So, yes, there is always so many feelings at the same time. I try to let them all in. Last week we were practicing Kung Fu together in a park. Doing sports together. This was very awesome. Breaking the circle of waiting and impotence.

What would you like to know?

Last Friday, we attended the justPeople meeting in Nijmegen via Skype. Despite those 3000 km between us, we are connected. Across borders. So, so nice.

For the time still remaining: what would you like to know? I am happy to build this knowledge bridge together!

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