The following days we are on the island of Lesvos and meet staff from LESVOS Solidarity, a project partner of EKHN, and from other non-governmental organisations that care for refugees. The island’s close proximity to the Turkish coast makes it a hotspot.
We speak with human rights activists and refugees, with representatives of „Refugee Support Aegean“ (RSA), „Medecins Sans Frontieres“ (MSF) and the EU Task Force Migration Management Coordination. We meet the director of the current camp Mavrovouni. We hear about push backs and harassment of refugees. We remember the terrible fire in the former Camp Moria and experience how people on Lesvos are working beyond their own borders for a humane reception of refugees. We hear of refugees who die after the hardships of flight because they did not receive adequate medical care or fled directly into the mountains and died of hypothermia. We celebrate a service in the Catholic parish in Mytilini led by the Archbishop of the Diocese of Chios, Joseph Printezis, in which mainly refugees from Africa participate; the sermon, liturgy and singing are in English and French.
We meet refugees who are now well integrated on the island and others who are desperately waiting for recognition. We hear the story of the camps of Moria, Kare Tepe and Pikpa. We see the containers of the Mavrovouni camp on the outskirts of Mytilini from afar. In a few months it is to move to a remote location in the middle of the island. This new camp should initially be able to accommodate up to 5,000 refugees, and its capacity could be expanded to 10,000. Many of our interlocutors are very critical of this new camp and its remote location.
Our project partner in Mytilini is LESVOS Solidarity (https://www.lesvossolidarity.org/en/). They are running the Mosaik Support Centre. It started in July 2016 in response to the need for sustainable support structures for refugees and locals after the entry into force of the EU-Turkey deal. Today it is a meeting point for refugees and locals to interact and get together right in the center of Mytilini. They offer language classes (Greek, English, Farsi and Arabic), educational activities for children, computer classes, guitar lessons, yoga classes, literature workshops, human rights workshops, poetry nights, cinema screenings, and has two choirs. Mosaik also provides free psychosocial support and free legal support through the Lesvos Legal Centre.
One of the key integration and vocational projects is the Safe Passage Bags workshop. This is an upcycling project where refugees and locals create bags out of lifejackets left on the shorelines in Lesvos, and used by refugees who crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey.
In Humade Crafts upcycling workshop they sensitize people on the environment, promote creativity and inspire recycling, processing and transformation of discarded materials.
On the initiative of LESVOS Solidarity and with the support of EKHN, the vegan restaurant Nan was opened in the old town of Myrtilini. Here, refugees cook and serve and determine the menu with dishes from their home countries. In the social networks, the restaurant is highly rated.