Friday, January 29, 2016

night shift

It's six am at Moria and I've been on shift since around midnight. There's a ferry strike on, another one, so most people in the camp can't leave yet. Once they are registered, they are free to leave, but with the ferry strike on, only those who can afford to put up at a hotel in Mytilini, or fly to Athens or elsewhere, can really leave. Few refugees have money to spend on hotels, so stay on in the camp where, whatever the conditions, they are housed, fed, and clothed free until they can take the boat.

Since the weather has been clear too, and boats arriving, Moria is fairly full, although not as full as it will be if the weather continues clear. In fact, we just got a radio call that a bus load of Syrians have just arrived. I don't know where we'll put them. The rubhall--the large tent for single men, the family compound in the dorms for small nuclear families and particularly vulnerable people, and the RHUs are all almost to capacity, and we've given out all but a few of our remaining tents. We set a record tonight, that none of us want to break or even match for the number of men in an RHU, a refugee housing unit--the IKEA hut built to hold five. Our record for adult men in one? 28.

Additionally, we have a severely traumatized man, a deaf and basically illiterate man ( who just asked me for water, but bottled water is something we don't have, and though I gave him a cup I don't think he understood me trying to tell him where to find the taps. When another volunteer returns from meeting the bus, i'll take his cup and fill it for him)  a missing child, and a woman in labor. Just another night in Moria. But I can hear the birds starting to chirp at the dawn of this new day. Somehow we'll all manage.

The above was written early this morning. Now it's late afternoon and i've had a few hours of sleep before going on duty again tonight. i'd like to get some more sleep before we meet up at 11:30 pm for the drive down, but i want to get this updated and posted for you all before i take a nap.

there have been a few changes at moria since i was last there. the construction (of what, i don't know) has picked up considerably. i hope they are 1. working on drainage ditches, and 2. leveling ground for more housing. we desperately need at least one more large tent like the rubhall for single men and more RHUs. given that's it's winter, fewer boats are arriving than are expected this summer. if projections are correct, and lesvos sees an influx of 3 million people over the summer, our meager resources at moria will be completely overrun. as it is, we house anywhere from between 1,000-3,000 a night in cramped and crowded conditions. a better drainage system is also a dire necessity. near the bathrooms at the bottom of the camp is a row of faucets. there are probably about twenty of them, and this is the only access to drinking water most people have. besides the fact that they generally have no cups or bottles to hold water in, and we have none to give out, only one of the faucets has a tap on it so that it can be turned on. when i asked the director of the camp why that was, she told me it was due to drainage issues. walking around moria, it's easy to see what she means. the entire lower level (moria is built on a steep hillside) is a morass of thick, sticky mud. on my way to one of the lower RHUs a few nights ago, i stepped into an area where my foot sank into the mud about 5 inches deep. i can see the depth mark of the mud on my boot.

the picture doesn't really capture how bad the mud is, because the mud is everywhere. and what no picture can show is the stench when you approach the bathrooms. as if all that weren't bad enough, whoever planned the camp put a bank of electric outlets outside the bathrooms, so that there are always a number of (usually) young men just outside the door to the women's toilets. unsavory anywhere, in a culture that puts a premium on women's privacy, this was a major gaffe at the very least. there are many women, including some volunteers and NGO workers who will not go to the bathrooms alone.

another change is that someone had the brilliant idea of closing down the 24 hour medical clinic in the upstairs dorms where the most vulnerable, including the sick, the elderly, and the pregnant are housed. we've had several births at moria during my tenure in greece, and with a woman in labor last night in the dorms, and no other 24 hour medical assistance available, it's hard to fathom just how the decision to close the clinic was made, and why.

the best update from the time i was writing is that the missing child was found. he had apparently gotten up in the night to go to the bathroom, and when he got back went into the wrong RHU, the one next door to where his family was staying. every morning at 8 am we volunteers have the onerous duty of waking everybody and ousting them--with all their belongings--from their shelters so they can be cleaned. it's not till 3 pm that we start allocating shelter again, unless it's raining. though it was cloudy today, it wasn't raining when i left, and it hasn't rained here.

finally, those of us on duty last night are worried about the deaf man. communication with him is almost impossible, and i don't know what kind of effort is being made to find an arabic sign language translator. after i gave him his cup and failed at communicating how to fill it, and before my colleague returned from escorting and assisting the busload (about 50) of new arrivals, i asked a volunteer from the hot tea tent across the way from us to get him a bottle from the dorms. it is the only place we have any bottled water to give out, and it is scarce, so we are stingy with it, giving it only to those who cannot make their way down to the taps (although there are bathrooms in the dorm rooms with showers and perfectly fine water for drinking from the taps in the sink). the other volunteer obliged me by running up the hill (i was alone and couldn't leave, she had a colleague with her and could run the errand without abandoning the tea tent) and bringing the man a bottle of water. he took a few sips, stood up from the chair he had perched in outside our building all night, wrapped the blanket we gave him around his head, asked for a cigarette, and disappeared. my colleague who was down at the gate with the busload of new arrivals, saw him linger near the gate a moment, then go outside. that was the last anybody saw of him before we left. i hope he is alright, and will come back so that we can find him some help, however long it takes us.

nap time. good night all


  1. Dang nobody thought of deaf people...
    It sounds like some of the other organizations are better. This one is straight ran by cops?

  2. it's run by cops because it's an official registration camp. yeah. nobody thought of deaf people. don't know what ever happened to him. that was the last anybody saw of him. hope he's ok

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