school with a broken heart

One Happy Family

May 2020

The situation on Lesvos and Greece in general

The situation remains tense on the island of Lesvos. The living conditions for people in Moria RIC (Reception and Identification Center) are inhumane, dangerous and there is a total lack of proper basic services.

People have been shot at
This week 2 refugees were shot at whilst walking near Moria RIC. The perpetrator was identified and detained. On Friday, the 24th of April 2020, around 100 people gathered in front of the court in his support. On Monday, the 27th of April 2020, the perpetrator received a fast trial and was released with some conditions; to go to the police station 3 times per month, to not leave the country, not go to his property (a field), and pay 1000 euros.

Cash cards
The monthly cash cards provided by UNHCR have been topped up with a little additional money for hygiene articles due to the coronavirus, but residents of Moria RIC cannot access their monthly cash support. They haven’t been able to access it for weeks now, as they are not allowed to use the ATMs in Mytilini. The installation of cash machines next to Moria RIC was planned and the ATMs arrived at end of last week, however they are yet to be installed. Until they are installed, people remain without cash, unable to reach the additional money that is supposedly for use now, and unable to use their normal monthly support for basic needs to survive.

Situation in Moria RIC
Inside Moria there are 2 shops that accept those cards directly. 2 small shops for over 20’000 people. More lines are formed, resulting in longer waits for food and hygiene items. Social distancing - a joke in Moria.
There have been a few demonstrations inside Moria RIC in the last few weeks. One took place after a 16 year old boy was stabbed to death inside the camp. People demanded safety, support and fair treatment. Another demonstration was organized last week. People demanded nothing more than better health conditions, transfers to safer places, equality, and action from the responsible governments, which includes Greece as well as the European Union and Switzerland as Dublin signatory state.

Hunger strike at the detention center
The hunger strike that was started at the beginning of April by detainees of the PRO.KE.K.A detention center in Moria has been violently stopped by the police. The PRO.KE.K.A hunger strikers demanded their immediate release to avoid the disastrous consequences of a virus outbreak in the prison. The people held inside the PRO.KE.K.A detention center are held in administrative detention and have committed no crime. They have been arrested only because of their status. Many of the detained are held only because of their nationality, coming from countries where statistically less than 25% are recognised as refugees.
Around 6’000 refugees are currently imprisoned under inhumane conditions throughout Greece. Amongst them are many minors and vulnerable people.
detention centers
Asylum Offices closed
All Asylum Offices in Greece are closed due to the coronavirus restrictions until mid May. Regardless, decisions to asylum requests are handed out, leaving people scared, stressed, frightened and alone. Deadlines for appeals and other appointments are frozen until the Asylum Service opens again, but once they reopen everyone who got rejected, needed to renew asylum application cards, had interviews scheduled etc. for the past 2 months will need appointments at the same time. Chaos, overcrowded offices, a lack of service, frustrations and a negative outcome for all sides are guaranteed.

Unaccompanied minors
There are over 5’252 unaccompanied minors in Greece. Only 12 have been relocated to Luxembourg and 50 to Germany. Switzerland agreed to take 22 unaccompanied minors. This is not enough and can only be the start!

Lockdown and restrictions
The lockdown for Moria RIC and the other camps on the island was extended until the 5th of May. The lockdown for people outside the camp was also extended until the 5th of May. The coronavirus restrictions are expected to be lifted gradually throughout May and June but everyone has to wait for further official statements.

Arrivals during lockdown
3 groups of refugees, who arrived on the island of Lesvos during the lockdown restrictions, are still unable to register and apply for asylum in Greece and remain in the places where they arrived. Officials have made them stay in “quarantine” for over 34 days so far, completely abandoned without proper shelter and food at the shorelines and in the forests of Lesvos.

Transfer from Moria cancelled
A transfer for about 1500 vulnerable people from Moria RIC to the mainland was scheduled for this Saturday, but the Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, has announced its cancellation. His scheduled visit to Lesvos also didn’t take place.

Asylum in Greece reinstated
As said last month, the Greek Government decided to suspend the right to ask for asylum for a month. This has been – after a very slow reaction – criticised by the European Union. Greece than reinstated the right to ask for asylum, but, as said above, is not dealing with this right appropriately: People have been denied this right, left stranded on Lesvos’ shores and in its forests.

Many lives are lost
People die, drowning while crossing the Aegean Sea to Lesvos, stabbed to death while being trapped inside the camps, attempting to take their own lives in the camps and while unlawfully detained. Deaths that could be avoided, deaths that are not recognised by the authorities, deaths that remain unheard and undocumented, deaths that are tolerated by the European Union.

2 camps and a hotel that accommodate refugees on the mainland were put under 2-week quarantine. No one is allowed to leave these places. 3 weeks have passed, without any update for the people trapped inside.

Fire on Chios and Samos
In the last two weeks several fires happened inside the camps on Chios and Samos. The situation in the camps is beyond terrible and needs to be changed right now! The inhuman conditions that people have to live under can’t continue. Governments have to take responsibility!


Here we want to share some important articles from last month:

OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR and WHO joint press release: the rights and health of refugees, migrants and stateless must be protected in COVID-19 response:

The Guardian: “Migrant children on Greek Islands to be flown to Luxembourg”: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/08/migrant-children-in-greek-island-camps-to-be-relocated-across-eu

Aljazeera, “UN warns coronavirus pandemic could become human rights crisis”: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/warns-coronavirus-pandemic-human-rights-crisis-200423040902880.html

Der Bund, “Fünf Schweizerinnen und Schweizer erzählen von der Hölle in Moria”: https://www.derbund.ch/fuenf-schweizerinnen-und-schweizer-erzaehlen-von-der-hoelle-in-moria-450267976179

Jean Ziegler, “A portrait”: https://www.srf.ch/play/tv/redirect/detail/439cfeb1-90ad-4e71-b743-8b35f4c07410

News from the Community Centre

Recovering from the fire
Besides all this, One Happy Family has slowly but steadily developed and is recovering from the fire.
This past Thursday the deconstruction of the completely burned The International School of Peace building began (see picture). The reconstruction of the main hall and the offices will begin soon. For this we need the support of professional companies. We have cleaned everything we could by ourselves in the best possible way using high-pressure water cleaners. We carried the damaged materials and objects and the rest of the burned wood away and reinstalled electricity and water to the Community Center.

Plans and future ideas for OHF
Internally we are working on our plans and future ideas of One Happy Family, yet we weren’t able to finalize them.
One Happy Family will never be the same as before, but that’s ok.
We will rethink, redo, retry and reorganize and will start again with fresh ideas and energy to make the space better than before.
Of course, we will keep you updated on that.

On-going support for the people in the camps
Even though we face many restrictions during the lockdown, we try to reach out and support people locked up and stuck inside the camp. More than ever, support is needed.
We distribute hygiene bags to the OHF helpers, wash clothes via The Lava Project, have online Greek and English courses for different levels, provide our helpers with phone data to be able to attend the classes and stay in contact with friends and family, communicate with our volunteers inside the camp as much as possible, and try to stay connected and support them wherever is needed and possible. Of course, in this manner we can only reach a small amount of people compared to the 20’000 that are trapped inside Moria. Thankfully there are a few initiatives, organised by refugees, locals and NGOs inside and outside the camps, who are still here and keep supporting and helping the people with great effort.

Financial support to other NGOs
The board and the coordination team of OHF decided to support other NGOs in this emergency status since we know that working together is definitely for the better :). We still have on-going costs and the reconstruction will cost a lot, but we want to support the people stuck on the island immediately. Thus we have financially supported a few initiatives and NGOs that are currently in need.

Insight into volunteering at OHF during the lockdown – by India
Volunteering at One Happy Family is unrecognisable now, compared to my time here before.

The closure of OHF, initially due to the threat of fascists, then the fire and now Covid-19 including the lockdown of Moria RIC has meant my days are in no way comparable to the days spent at One Happy Family.

Luckily we still have access to Moria RIC and so I pass there most days, delivering essential items for helpers of One Happy Family and for others who we know are in need, although of course our help is just a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.
I think that most importantly, we are a shoulder to lean on, a friendly face and someone to listen for our helpers, our old visitors and also for their friends. We constantly receive calls and messages from people who, like everyone in the world are experiencing increased anxiety but, of course are in a much more tense and dire position than most, without the ability to follow the guidelines to help prevent catching Corona.

Often all you can do is listen to their worries and let them know that you care, however, when we can help of course we do. Picking up prescriptions for people trapped in the camp, helping them to understand messages received in Greek, taking clothing from Attika so that they aren’t dressed for winter during the hot days we are experiencing at the moment, even writing CVs for them, if only to give them a tiny burst of positivity and a glimmer of hope that their current situation isn’t forever.
We take hygiene packages and food vouchers for our helpers, also delivering additional food parcels for people who are sick. We do laundry once a week, take books for people to read and then pass on, to help pass the time. Greek and English classes have started this week online.

I have always been amazed by the people here’s resilience and positivity, but at the moment it seems that everyone has lost hope and is on a downward spiral. I try to always seem positive even if I have nothing positive to say, to smile even though the only thing we can be sure of is that it won’t be like this forever.

One thing which always makes me feel positive is seeing OHF become cleaner and brighter; every time I visit something has changed! They are doing an amazing job cleaning up, even before the fire, people would stop me in the street and tell me that they needed One Happy Family, desperate for it to open again so they had an escape. Now when I see people who recognise me outside Moria RIC, they tell me how sad they are and beg to be involved in the clean-up and rebuild; of course this isn’t possible due to Corona, but it really shows what One Happy Family means to people and I am very happy to tell them that it looks better every day.

Thank you, India for everything you do!

What can you do?

As said already last month.
Raise your voice, stand up for equal rights for everyone, resist and fight oppression and show solidarity.

Share the important petitions with your friends, family and communities.

Europe Must Act! http://www.europemustact.org
Leave no one behind! https://leavenoonebehind2020.org/de/
And the newest, a Swiss action call.
OHF, together with over 100 other NGOs in Switzerland, initiated this petition. This joint statement towards the Federal Council and the Swiss Parliament needs the support and solidarity of people in Switzerland to put pressure on our government, which has the capacity and possibility to support an immediate evacuation. Evacuate NOW! www.evakuieren-jetzt.ch

Reminder: Support to who?
If you want to support the rebuilding of OHF or our on-going costs like rent, we are more than thankful.
But with One Happy Family closed temporarily, we also want to tell you who else needs your support in this emergency situation:

For Emergency Medical Support: Medical Volunteers International, https://medical-volunteers.org/de/

To support the Olive Grove: Movement on the ground, https://movementontheground.com

To support organizations working with minors: Better Days, https://www.betterdays.ngo and Synyparxi, https://m.facebook.com/groups/siniparxi/?ref=group_header&view=group and their bank details:
ACCOUNT NUMBER : 6355-138560-788 EUR
IΒΑΝ : GR 07 0171 3550 0063 5513 8560 788
VAT 099830186

To support hygiene measures: The Lava project: https://thelavaproject.org

To support Legal aid: Legal Centre Lesvos, https://legalcentrelesvos.org

Please find more information on their websites. Thank you for your support for all the people on Lesvos!
Content: India Ashworth,
Julia Bürge, Jael Tobler
Date: 27.4.2020
One Happy Family | https://ohf-lesvos-org | info@ohf-lesvos.org | @ohflesvos
CH23 0079 0016 9736 1524 7 (CHF) | CH36 0079 0016 9737 1172 2 (EUR)
CH-3400 Burgdorf, Switzerland
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