22.04.2016 An interview with a person staying at the camp near Kavala

Today we visited a Camp outside Kavala in Eastern Greece. The camp is situated in an old marble mine secluded from any villages. People are staying in tents there, sleeping on the rocky ground. The police is guarding the entrance and does not allow people visiting the camp. As police did not allow us to speak to the people inside the camp, we met up with a Syrian man from the camp in Kavala and asked him about this camp.

Moving Europe: Can you tell us how you came to Kavala?

In Aleppo I was imprisoned many times because I was active mainly on social media channels against the regime. I believe in rights and freedom and that we can do whatever we dream of. The regime imprisoned me many times because of my political stands. Later came the bombs in Aleppo and radical forces took over Aleppo. And these radicals never accept activities from the civil society like my actions. So I fled to Turkey. At the border my nephew, who is sixteen years old, joined me. His brother was killed in the war by a bomb and the family of my sister wanted him to go with me to find a safe future for him. 

After the very dangerous crossing of the Aegean Sea we came to Lesvos and finally to the port in Athens. There, they brought us to a camp in Nea Karvali. I think this was a somehow better camp. We stayed in a building, but it was very crowded for the around 700 people. We had for example only one bathroom for men and one for women. That was not enough. At that camp we stayed for more than one month. But every week the police told us that we have to leave this camp very soon. One morning, they came and said you have to leave now. We asked why. They said that the camp will be used as expo grounds again. So they brought 8 buses in the morning and promised us to bring us to a better place. We did not trust them and wanted to know to which place they are bringing us. We were not getting any answers and therefore we refused to enter the buses. But the police reacted by bringing riot police with electric sticks and shields. So we had to board the buses. Together with a little less than half the people I was brought to this camp near Kavala. The others left for a camp called Larisa. But they protested and because of their protest they are now in a better camp.

Moving Europe: Can you describe the situation in Kavala for us?

The police are not friendly to us. I think that the chief is a racist person. We have to stay in tents on rocky grounds with only a very thin inflatable mattress. We were given one sleeping bag and one blanket each. At nights it is very cold, and during the day it gets very hot. Up to 8 people have to sleep in one tent and we see snakes every day. Not everybody can eat the military food. But we have no facilities to cook for ourselves. Only by fire, but the police always tells us we cannot do that. Sometimes, there are small fights between some people of the camp and the police wants to take them to the police station and people are scared they will be deported to Turkey. But we collectively stop the police from taking people to the police station and then solve the problem among ourselves. I think our situation is getting worse day by day. The best thing in this place is the view. It is very scenic (laughs).

Moving Europe: What is your opinion: How is the European Union treating Refugees?

For me the EU-Turkey deal is a crime. They are punishing us. But what’s our crime? We don’t know. Europe wants to stop migrants and now we are stuck here, we are disappointed and sad. Some people are even thinking of going back to Turkey. Sometimes we feel like prisoners, we have no hope left. We have no information what will happen to us. We feel that the EU sends a secret message to us: Go back to your country and die there.

But the people from the civil society in Greece and also from other countries are really good and kind to us. We are very grateful for that. They are not the same as the government.

Moving Europe: How do you cope with that situation?

Actually since 3 weeks we cannot make plans anymore. Because we don’t know what choices we have. They tell us that the borders will stay closed and will never reopen again. We just have the option of relocation, smugglers or of going back. We cannot reach the asylum service over Skype. Nobody I know ever reached the office. We are trying to be patient. But making decisions is very difficult at the moment. I need to find a safe place for my nephew. I do not care about myself, but he has the right for a safe future. We are fighting for our rights and keep fighting until we reach a safe place. And only there we will have a rest.

These pictures are a courtesy of the people satying in the camp:

kavala_2 kavala_3 kavala_1 kavala_4 kavala_5