Let’s talk about Lesvos

Lesvos island has been one of the most impacted areas from the beginning of the Refugee crisis in Greece. It is also where A Drop in the Ocean was born and implemented as a vision and an idea.

Mennesker i vaskeri

The refugee influx reached its highest peak in 2015-1016, followed by many hardships up until today, creating needs and gaps in different fields such as accommodation, protection, and many others. The birthplace of the organization still faces considerable challenges.

Today, according to the UN Refugee Agency statistics provided to the interagency meeting (information not publicly open yet), the total refugee population in Lesvos is 1952 people; among them, 1539 are hosted in Kara Tepe Camp (50% men, 28% women, 22% children / mostly Afghans, Somalians, Eritreans ); 326 people are accommodated in shelters, and 78 people are self-accommodated (with the actual number believed to be more than 300, as there are difficulties on the monitor of this category). The new arrivals for September reached the number of 683 people, while the reported number of deaths is 18 people. These numbers are highly increased compared to last year’s statistics. The departures from Lesvos to the Mainland (via organized transfers) reached 281 people.

After the big fire in September 2020, which destroyed the settlement of Moria Camp, the then population was relocated to the Mainland (only the most vulnerable beneficiaries), other accommodations and the temporal Camp of Kara Tepe in Lesvos. In October 2020, in collaboration with an external contractor, we became the sole laundry service provider in the temporal Kara Tepe Camp.

Two years later, the new Camp announced to host the population is still under construction. Hence, the beneficiaries are still settled in Kara Tepe, which is a worrisome accommodation, as it is in constant danger concerning the populations’ lives and mental health; The Kara Tepe Camp is placed in an open area, fully exposed to climatic events and with the living standards to reach the minimum capacity. More specifically, the actors operating in this context raise their concerns about the challenges of this settlement during their interagency meetings and official statements[1]. Among the problems is the basic accommodation situation, as people are compelled to live in commonly used containers or plastic RHUs with no proper heating nor ventilation; the WASH facilities are commonly used, which as a case is quite precarious; there is limited access to electricity; there is limited access to medical care; there is limited access to legal advises; there is limited access to proper nutrition; there are not enough educational and recreational activities for children and adults. Finally, there are concerns about the mental health of residents, as expressed by the medical actors operating in the Camp[2].

The Greek Authorities have announced that by February 2023, the new Camp will be ready to host the beneficiaries; however, the operating actors discuss their wariness during the interagency meetings about this solution with regards to its type (it will be a closed type facility) as well, as the new settlement is said to be in a remote area[3].

After seven years in the field, A Drop in the Ocean adapts our way of intervention to better respond to the respective and constantly changing needs. Today, A Drop in the Ocean in Lesvos remains an active member of the WASH sector. Our Laundry Service, which started operating in October 2020, with the help of our volunteers and an external contractor, became a Laundry Service Station operated by A Drop in the Ocean and an external contractor. In September 2022, the collaboration with the external contractor was replaced by the establishment of our Laundry Service with the hiring of two laundry technicians in Mid-August, while the provision of support by volunteers remains. Worth noting that our laundry technicians come from the local and the refugee community in our effort to be as inclusive in our programme as possible. Being the only actor running the Laundry Service inside the Camp of Kara Tepe, we give every household the chance to wash around 6-10kg of clothes every ten days on average. We also support referred populations from medical actors twice per week. In collaboration with the quarantine zone, Drop washes the used materials of the long-stay patients and acts as the in-charge provider of the scabies protocol for the new arrivals. We work closely with the Camp Management on emergencies such as fires, disinfection etc. We also collaborate with UAM shelters to wash their blankets once per month. Regarding the support of other actors, the latter provides us with the washing materials. Further to mention, we identified a significant decrease in scabies and other skin diseases by managing to cover  the Camps’ washing needs. 

We believe that a drop of help is of great importance. We are there to support the people and the actors in their everyday struggles. We believe no one should be left behind, and we act accordingly.

[1] Oxfam condemns ‘inhumane’ Greek asylum system (2020) . Retrieved from Deutsche Welle: https://www.dw.com/en/oxfam-condemns-inhumane-greek-asylum-system/a-54021180

[2] Medecins Sans Frontieres,  (2021). Retrieved from https://www.msf.org/one-year-moria-fire-eu-still-denies-dignity-trapped-migrants

[3] Georgiopoulou, T. (2020). Closed centers on islands moving ahead as planned. Retrieved from ekathimerini: https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/249935/closed-centers-on-islands-moving-ahead-as-planned/