Katsikas: Between persevering and arranging in desolation

IMG_0769The camp near the small village Katsikas exists for 4-5 months now and currently about 800 people are living there. The camp is organized by soldiers(?) in training, therefore they aren´t allowed to wear weapons (yet). Besides military and police there are NGOs like MSF, Medicins du Monde and Lighthouse. Food is provided by military once a day, the mainpart of infrastructure is arranged by volunteers. We talked to volunteers and refugees on site.

A family with many children told us about their desire to go to Germany or maybe Spain. A lot of their relatives already live in Germany. They repeatedly pointed out the very bad circumstances in Greece. There were snakes, they said, and showed us their swollen insect stings.

The camp is situated next to a highway, on a gravel field betweet two mountain chains without any protection against sun or wind. In blazing heat with more than 30 degrees there is hardly anybody outside the tends. The military only provides the most necessary things for the people that live inside these tends. Any infrastructure that´s available was established by the people themselves in cooperation with the volunteers. Even the volunteer´s food the people favor over the uneatlable food the military provides.

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The refugees have layed out real gardens in front of many tents, where they grow tomatoes, fennel and other vegetables. The volunteers told us how they established a sports-tent together with the refugees, with a punching bag, a dumbbell and skipping ropes. They told us that there were Olympia participants for e.g. discus throwing and several thai boxers in the camp. In addition, the refugees have build up a women´s room. There is a washing tent for babies, a kindergarden and a school, all run by refugees and volunteers. Also a prayer tent is available. On the walls of the tents are various graffiti with political slogans and drawings. The volunteers told us how they, together with the refugees, try to build up the structures they want and need.
Here in the camp has developed a longterm and mainly self-organized infrastructure.

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Anyways, there remains the question what kind of Europe this is that gives refugees the choice between a dangerous, illegalized escape route and persistence in camps? Instead the hoped escape into a save life, this Europe leaves people to stagnate in the desolation, demoralizes them and takes all their opportunities and perspectives to build up themselves a good life. This politics brutally deprives people of their human dignity by keeping them in the distance on the margin of subsistence.

A young refugee showed us a video on his mobile phone from the crossing on a rubberboat. The by him called “Mafia“, had forced more and more persons on the boat, threatening them with guns. With his hands he showed us how much the boat did sag in the middle when they started the crossing. On the video we heard children cry and scream. He himself had to steere the boat. 6 hours they had to be on this boat, which bobbed upand down heavily on the waves. On the next video he showed us how they were pulled out of the boat by the Greek coastguard. The Turkish coastguard on the other hand just hit the boat, he said.

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The volunteers told us that in the camp was no connection to the relocation program (Counter-model of the EU instead of open borders: The possibility to apply for asylum in Greece and beeing “reallocated“ afterwards). Who wants to try to go further trough this program had to go to Athens or Thessaloniki first, e.g. by bus, which “of course“ has to be paid by themselves. The camp is divided into groups, concerning the “ethnos“. Each group has to choose a speaker that is responsible to communicate necessities, among other things. How far the division was self-determined or decided by officials, they didn´t know.

The size of the caIMG_0776mp did diminish in the last weeks. Many left by night, we were told. Also in this camp it is visible that the refugees take their lives in their own hand, look for new ways and hopefully find them, to arrive at their destination.

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