Isn’t it time that we wake up?
Last week, A Drop in the Ocean started working inside the “safe zone” in Moria Camp on Lesvos. The safe zone is a fenced in area inside Moria where 72 unaccompanied children live. Behind bars. They are all orphaned, the youngest being only 1,5 years. This weekend (August 2019) we were notified that one of the boys had been killed inside the so-called “safe zone.” Two other boys were injured, one of them critical. We feared that something like this could happen. When all the other volunteer organizations leave Moria in the evening, so does the majority of police officers working in the camp. Only a handful of police officers, guards and other government staff remain. Monica Skilbrei, one of our field workers on Lesvos describes the last couple of days in camp, and how they experienced being notified about the horrific event happening this weekend.
By: Monica Skilbrei, field worker Lesvos, A Drop in the Ocean / Translated by: Thea Jerejian, Volunteer Coordinator, A Drop in the Ocean
A “tour” in Moria Camp
As it is strictly prohibited to take photos inside camp, I will try to explain what the camp is like. A Drop in the Ocean has finally managed to get access to the area behind the tall, barb wired fence. Even though I have been here several times, it is impossible to get used to all the different impressions being thrown at you. We walk up the long hill from the parking lot towards the camp. Under the broiling sun, there are a number of different voices, sounds, and children crying.
There is a sweet odor of sewage, smoke from burning fires, sweat, and urine. The smell is like a lid over the area, strong enough to give you a headache and feel nauseous. Stray dogs and cats are running around everywhere. Lesvos has a number of stay dogs and cats, and many of them have found their way to Moria. Maybe because they get taken care of here?
“A silent apology screams inside me.” – Monica Skilbrei
Today, there are about 10,000 people living inside the barb wired fence of Moria. The capacity is 2,500. We try to keep up with our coordinator walking up the hill. We smile and say hello to everyone we meet. A silent apology screams inside me. Sometimes I feel at loss, am I still in Europe? I do not recognize myself being in what we like to call “the civilized” part of the world.
“Safe Zone” – a fenced-in area inside the camp
All of a sudden, our coordinator stops in front of a heavy “prison door,” we have arrived at the “safe zone.” Behind the fence lives 72 children. Behind bars. They are all orphaned. According to our coordinator is the youngest only 1,5 years. A police officer lets us in. We are all wearing wests and ID cards. He looks every one of us in the eyes before he lets us in. There are always children behind him trying to get out. It is his job to keep them in. I do not know when or how often they are let out. Inside the gate, several children come running towards us, yelling “Hi my friend, how are you?”
Play, comfort and a “quiet moment”
During the first day I thought, wow, this will be a hectic shift. But it turns out it did not. When we got to our designated area, the children threw themselves over the boxes with games that we brought. What they wanted was a quiet moment with adults and the comfort we could provide them. Three days later, that is still my impression. We solve puzzles and play different games, prioritizing safety and attention. We do not ask questions and all we do is based on the children.
Of course, some of the children require more attention. There is one boy, about 6 years old, who cannot sit still. He does everything in his power to gain attention. Including things he is not supposed to do, such as climbing on the roof. When we carefully try to explain that he cannot climb the roof, he usually reacts like this: he falls to his knees, hits himself several times on the cheek, while screaming: “PROBLEMS, ALWAYS PROBLEM”
We will have to work hard convincing him that HE is not the problem.
A difficult day – a minor was killed
It has been a difficult day. We woke up to the news that a minor, a young boy, was murdered last night, inside the so-called safe zone in Moria. Two other boys were also injured, one of them critical. We feared that something like this could happen. When all the volunteer organizations leave Moria in the evening, most of the police officers leave as well. Only a handful of police officers, guards, and other government staff remain. As already mentioned, there are 10,000 people crammed together – like animals. Is it really a surprise that fights erupt?
Can you imagine how it would be living like this?
You feel despair when a young boy sits down next to you and asks: “Do you speak Norwegian?” (in Norwegian). It is far from the first time this has happened, and it hurts each time. Norway is the only country that considers Afghanistan to be a safe country. The boys are terrified to be deported.
The boy I met last week, fled for the first time in 2015. He got himself to Norway and moved around in many different reception centers. When he turned 18, he was deported to Kabul.
There was no one waiting for him, so he fled again. Life on the run and living in continuous fear does something to you. I have come to understand why these boys enjoy drawing and coloring. For them it is an attempt to regain some of their childhood.
A Drop in the Ocean work in Section A and B. In these sections live young, unaccompanied boys between 13-18. They live in small containers, 20 boys in each room. When we arrive in the evening we stay in a small common area. Some wants to play different games or play football outside. Some would like to draw or color together with an adult. Tonight, I attach a picture of what some of the boys drew last night. I hope this can help describe what I am trying to explain.
I was difficult to leave Moria tonight. Over the last couple of days, several boats have arrived, and the newly arrived have to stay outside. When we walked down the road, there were people everywhere. They had gone to bed for the night – with a blanket, right on the asphalt. As our coordinator said: “It feels like we are trampling through someone’s bedroom”
Now my thoughts go to the young boy who lost his life last night, and to his brother who is left all by himself.
Isn’t it time that we weak up?