Many media outlets and freelance journalists were covering the situation and spotlighting refugees’ problems and needs. However, this time everything was different.
I spent ten days in the refugee camp at the Athens port and met more than thirty refugee families. They were disappointed and afraid.
In the camp at the Athens port, one can see six main tent gatherings, each with around a hundred or more small tents spread on different areas of the port. I could estimate that four or five refugees at least live in each tent, and that most of the families are with children under six years old.
The worst of all was the old rickety building, which contains around five hundred tents (pictured). The tents are pitched so that they touch one another, with almost no passageway between them. The air inside the large hall is very heavy, with hundreds of people breathing, smoking, cooking and getting rid of their wastes inside. Soon it could become even worse in summer with the heat and insects.
All refugees share a number of toilets and baths with the average of around one toilet and one bath for 100 refugees (This is an approximate ratio based on my personal observation). To go to the toilet you need to stand in a long line first to get some toilet paper and then stand in another line to go to the toilet. The same applies for baths with one difference! To use the bath, refugees need to have their papers stamped by the police when they have entered the port for the first time. Without the stamps refugees cannot even wait for a turn to bathe. A Syrian refugee family form Syria, Lattakia; with three children 8, 6, 2 respectively, told ECPMF that they could not have a shower for more than 15 days because their papers were not stamped. A few days later I saw one of the family’s children, and she was all clean with wet hair. The six year old girl told me that they managed to get a stamp for their papers and were able to shower finally.
The luckiest families found shelters under old big abandoned vehicles and put their tents underneath. The vehicles provide a little protection for the tents and their inhabitants from the sun and direct rain, but of course not from the run-off water caused by the rain.
The Greek authorities have moved the refugees’ tents from the area “E2” in the port, where most of the ferries that transport tourists arrive, to the area “E1” further back in the port, where they can be out of tourists’ sight. Refugees who had been decamped were very tired, disappointed and angry.
The amount of food given to the families was not bad, but the quality of the food was really poor, and the amount of some basic substances like bread, salt, sugar and oil was not enough.
Saada is a Syrian refugee from Menbj city, in the countryside east of Aleppo. Menbj was bombed by the Syrian regime forces and then fell under ISIS control. I met her with her family at the gate “E2” of the port one afternoon. They had spent the night on the pavement outside the gate, because they were not permitted to enter. They were totally exhausted and hopeless, after they had waited for almost a month in Idomeni on the Greece-Macedonia/ FYROM border.