Greece (MNN) – On the Greek island of Lesvos, about 8,000 refugees are living in Camp Moria, which is about the size of a super Walmart. Millions of refugees fled from violent-hit nations like Syria and Iraq in 2015 and 2016.
“At that time, we saw these large numbers coming because Germany had opened its borders and people were coming from war-torn countries, and from countries where they’re displaced because of conflict, or because of the lack of economic opportunities,” TeachBeyond’s Liz Steggal-Lewis says.
When many of the European borders closed, the refugee situation dramatically changed.
“For example, on Lesvos, when people first arrived, they were literally staying just as long as their papers were processed, which they were being processed in a few weeks,” Steggal-Lewis says.
Refugees would then take a boat to Athens and walk to an open European nation.
Upon the closing of borders, the refugee crisis hasn’t disappeared, but it’s altered.
The Continuing Refugee Crisis
Thousands continue to flee to Greece every month, but many are forced to stay in refugee camps for months or years now as they wait for their papers to be processed.
Steggal-Lewis says 19,656 people have arrived at the Grecian islands in 2018, and nearly 2,000 have arrived in the last two months. However, Steggal-Lewis says only 1,173 people have actually transferred to Athens in the last two months.
“People now are finding that they’re staying on the islands on Lesvos for over a year and they’re waiting to get asylum, and the situation is very hopeless for them, but it’s kind of gone off of our radar.”
Before people fled their homelands, they risked their lives every day simply being there. Steggal-Lewis said people didn’t know if their children would make it through the next bomb blast, if their families would come home, and many people would have death threats.
Even now, people are still forced to leave their homes and their occupations because of these horrific conditions.
As people have fled to Europe, they have the idea that their lives will be better. However, Steggal-Lewis says this is not the case when they arrive in Lesvos.
“They’re finding something that’s a completely different picture.”
Steggal-Lewis has been on the ground and interacted with many of the refugee people and their families. She’s heard their heart-breaking stories and how they’re feeling now.
One refugee woman told Steggal-Lewis, “I feel I died in that boat that day and I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t think any of us know who we are anymore.”
Camp Moria Conditions
Camp Moria is providing little comfort.
The camp is filled with trash and tensions have built and broken between the dozens of ethnic and religious groups. The camp is filled with violent riots and attacks on a daily basis.
The BBC reports the conditions of the camp are so bad that many charities will not work inside of it.
About 70 people are using one toilet and children as young as 10 years old are trying to commit suicide.
The camp, the BBC reports, was never meant to be a place for people to live for extended periods of time. Rather it was meant to be a “reception and identification center”.
Steggal-Lewis says the thousands of people in the camp are living with an unknown future. They don’t know if they’ll be sent to Athens, remain in Greece, or be sent to Turkey.
“They’re just living with this tremendous level of unknown and they are treated like the ‘other’. They’ve suddenly lost their identity and now, they’re a refugee. They’re a burden,” Steggel-Lewis says.
“It’s like utter hopelessness and especially when you have young people who are hopeless and feel like they’ve been betrayed and they’ve been rejected and forgotten, it creates a lot of anger.”
As a result, violence is breaking out on a regular basis and it’s bringing the fear and trauma the people originally fled from back to them.
“Literally, people don’t sleep at night because they’re standing guard over their family, backpack on, ready to run if their tent is burned if a violent riot starts. And so, there’s a level of terror that many of these refugees are still living with.”
In the midst of these dark circumstances, TeachBeyond is working to bring light by giving an education to children, providing washing machines, and sharing the love of Jesus.
Pray for the safety of refugees in Camp Moria and for a revival of hope.