OHF outside

One Happy Family

July 2020

The situation on Lesvos and in Greece

Situation in Greece regarding Covid-19
The Ministers of Civil Protection, Health, and Immigration & Asylum have decided that the measures against the infection and spread of COVID-19 concerning those staying in the Reception and Identification Centers (RICs) throughout Greek territory as well as in the Ritsona, Malakasa and Koutsohero-Larissa accommodation structures, will be extended until July 5th, 2020. At the same time, tourists and foreign travellers have been able to travel to Greece since June 15. Greek authorities decided on another unjustified extension of the restrictive measures targeted only at the refugee camps. The restrictions pose a real threat for the camps’ inhabitants: they live under harsh and inhumane conditions, lacking sanitary facilities and now cannot access essential services and support outside the camps. Despite the lack of COVID-19 cases inside the camps, they are "imprisoned" without adequate justification.

We have thus co-signed, together with Europe Must Act and many other NGOs currently based in Greece, a statement to the relevant Ministers of the Greek Government.
Read more: https://de.europemustact.org/post/joint-statement-on-the-extension-of-restrictive-measures-for-asylum-seekers
Europe Must Act_Restrictions_Lockdown_Covid
Closed Camps
All the existing camps in Greece will be turned into closed structures by a central government decision. Charalambos Athanassiou stated in the newspaper, Politika, that especially Moria, due to its uniqueness, will be turned into a closed structure. This will be the case as long as people arrive from Turkish shores to Greece. After these flows stop, the Government can reconsider, said Athanassiou.

Eviction of more than 8’000 recognised refugees
More than 8’000 recognised refugees evicted from camps and other governmental facilities on the islands made their way to Athens and camped at Victoria Square. Among them were many vulnerable people including families and small children. This happened as the Greek government recently decided to decrease the continuation period of "housing" support and cash assistance for recognized refugees to just 1 month after they receive asylum.
After days under the hot sun and nights in parks, the police brought some people from the streets to Eleonas camp. Again, insufficient support and inhumane conditions. Other people are still left in the squares of Athens without money, food or homes. The Minister stated that these people should have applied to the HELIOS program and should try to find a home. But everyone involved in any of these processes knows how difficult this is and how long this procedure can take.
Greek citizens themselves have difficulties finding work and housing. But while they can rely on family members to support them and a familiar environment and language, refugees can't.

Boat arrivals
As of the 27th June, there have been an increase of boat arrivals to the Islands. In total, 9 boats with 261 people arrived on the Islands, with seven of them on Lesvos. There have been 57 boats with 1,930 people stopped by the Turkish Coast Guard. With the increase of boats trying to cross the Aegean, we have also seen the increase of violence from the Hellenic and Turkish Coast Guard, and Frontex.

Pushbacks as the new strategy?
UNHCR as well as IOM has called on the Greek Government to investigate reports of state pushbacks by the Hellenic Coast Guard. Pushbacks are a completely illegal manoeuvre of border control.
Evidence has been published by the German Newspaper Spiegel, where it’s clear that pushbacks happened and that boats in distress have been abandoned. There are also reports of the destruction of boat engines and forcing people onto unsafe life rafts. On the 13th of June, a boat in distress with 32 people stayed on the water for hours, until it was eventually taken to Lesvos. There is mutual blame from the Greek Coast Guard towards the Turkish Coast Guard and vice versa. Turkish Media reported rescuing people that have been pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard.
On the 29th of June four people went missing and possibly died after a pushback of the Hellenic Coast Guard. Although the evidence is there, there hasn’t been any condemning statement by the European Union regarding this matter.

The floating 2.7 km fence that has been announced earlier this year has been delivered to the Greek Ministry of Defence.

News from the Community Centre

Reconstruction of One Happy Family
As you could see in our last newsletter, the reconstruction and particularly the repainting of our main hall continued. Everything is now bright again. Here are some impressions:
view from office
main hall 2
the nest
view to the offices
Main hall
Reopening of OHF
Unfortunately, due to so many unknowns from the COVID-19 restrictions to the governmental restrictions regarding the continuous lockdown in Moria and Kara Tepe, there is still no decision possible for the reopening. Nevertheless, if all goes well, we are hoping to at least start some activities in small groups in July and aim to open to the visitors in the end of July, but again, we need to wait and adapt according to the regulations.

How will OHF be once it’s reopened?
During this long mandatory pause our coordination team, together with the board, took the chance to have a look at what was working, what was not working, what needs improvement, etc. and in general how we’d like to proceed. OHF will thus be restructured.
Our beloved Community Centre is and will stay the heart. But there is a need to limit the number of visitors in order to allow the team not to be overwhelmed and also to do everything we do in a better way.
Our former helpers are now called Community Volunteers. The plan is to provide them in the future with better organized language classes and more skills trainings, integration counselling, and to again have more contact with each one. With the amount of visitors and community volunteers we had at the beginning of the year this was simply not possible anymore.

How about our magical kitchen?
We regret to inform you that legally we won’t be able to cook at OHF. However, distributing food is a possibility and we are currently working on implementing this option; but we are not yet sure whether or not we’ll be able to do it and if so, for how many people.
Even if at the end we can’t find a solution that allows us to serve lunch for our visitors, which we will really try to do - we will for sure keep providing breakfast and lunch to our volunteers.

And international volunteers?
Currently we are not accepting any new international volunteers, but we are hoping to do so from September on. The aim is to keep working with our volunteers who are already on the ground and some long term volunteers, who will come to the Island but will be able to self-quarantine before the start of their volunteering period. We will keep informing you over our Social Media as well as in the Newsletter as to when we will again accept applications for international volunteers and under what conditions.
Content: Jael Tobler
Date: 1.7.2020
One Happy Family | https://ohf-lesvos-org | info@ohf-lesvos.org | @ohflesvos
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