As a volunteer in Lesvos, you get to meet a lot of wonderful people who touch your heart and soul in a number of ways. Yesterday, we had two such encounters at our Drop Centre in Moria Village. First, as we prepared for our daily English class, a local, Greek, elderly woman stopped by our centre with some beautiful flowers. This was the second time this week that she stopped by to give us flowers. To us, these gifts symbolized our increasing acceptance in the village and the friendly relations we have cultivated with our local neighbours. This is so important, especially since many of the people in the village were initially sceptical to host foreign volunteers and a centre for refugees.
By: Heidi Mogstad, Volunteering on Lesvos
Meet Zara – a 14 year old girl from Afghanistan
The second encounter was of a different nature but equally moving. A few days ago we learned about a 14 year old girl from Afghanistan, we call her Zara, who is alone (or without her family) in Moria camp and in need of some assistance. The girl`s brother lives in Norway where he, as an unaccompanied minor, hva received temporary residency. The brother will apply for permanent residency, howewer, given the Norwegian government´s current asylump policies, the odds are against him and he risks getting deported to Afghanistan as soon as he turns 18. Their father and one of their sisters died in a bomb attack in Afghanistan while their mother died from kidney failure and lack of medical assistance on their escape to Europe. Having reached Greece with the help of another family, the young girl now lives in the so-called ‘safe zone’ in Moria, a space inside the camp reserved for unaccompanied migrant children, which provides 24/7 security and some basic services. After finally getting in touch with the girl through Whatsapp I met her outside of Moria camp and brought her to the Drop Centre for our daily evening activities. Probably because it was Sunday, it was unusually quiet at our centre that evening. We spent several hours talking, drinking tea and juice, painting our nails, listening to music and playing Jenga, a game that brought out plenty of smiles and laughs.
Drop – Center, an important contribution for indiviuals living in Moria
For myself, and the two other volunteers present, it was with mixed feelings that we said goodnight to the girl after walking her back to the camp. As volunteers, we had once again seen the small but important contribution our centre can make for individuals living under precarious conditions in Moria. We were also happy to hear that the girl wanted to come back again tomorrow. However, a fourteen-year-old girl should not live alone under these conditions. As Norwegian citizens, we also know all too well that our own government does not provide permanent protection for this girl and her brother, or for other young children and adults from Afghanistan.
As volunteers at Lesvos, it is difficult for us to understand and accept our own government’s claim that Afghanistan is a safe county of return when we meet people from Afghanistan every day who have lost family members and friends in the war. These are people who have risked their own lives and the lives of their children to reach Europe, only to be rejected or trapped in limbo in prison-like conditions on Lesvos. As a country with proud humanitarian traditions, Norway ought to do much more for this girl and others like her.