One Happy Family

August 2020

The situation on Lesvos and in Greece

Situation in Greece regarding Covid-19
There have not been too many new cases of Covid-19 in Greece, but there was a first confirmed case on Samos. Greece will make mask-wearing compulsory in more indoor spaces such as retail shops, public service offices, banks, food stores, bakeries and elevators.

Extension of lockdown
The Greek authorities have extended the restrictive measures for refugees and asylum seekers living in the Aegean camps including Moria RIC for the 6th time. The measures will now last until the 2nd of August.
These restrictive measures continue to limit access to essential services such as healthcare, education, legal aid, fresh food, etc. Meanwhile tourists continue to be allowed to travel to Greece.
Not only are these measures unjust, they are increasing the already high vulnerability of camp residents to Covid-19, as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control already pointed out last month.
We strongly condemn that people are stuck in overcrowded camps, lacking water, with insufficient medical facilities and nowhere to go.
restrictions extended_2nd of August
Boat arrivals and transfers
In July, as of the 28th, a total of 13 boats arrived to the islands, nine of these on Lesvos with 302 people. 40 boats have been stopped by the coast guard. Slightly over 2,000 people have been transferred from Lesvos, but as stated clearly in the part regarding evictions, they are often left without any support.

Quarantine on the Island of Lesvos
Currently, people arriving to Lesvos are brought to Megala Therma, the so-called quarantine camp in Northern Lesvos where people stay before being brought to Moria RIC. Some people have been kept in Megala Therma since the end of May. Reports show that the authorities aren’t separating those who already received negative test results from the newly arrived people, and self-isolation is not possible. It has been reported that even when people have tested positive that no doctors were provided and access to medical care was not granted. The people in Megala are provided one meal a day and a bottle of water. Since the camp is very far from any other houses or shops there is no possibility for the people to buy additional food, water or medicine.
Megala Therma was created to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but that doesn’t seem to be the main focus of the authorities. Otherwise, isolation and medical access would be provided.

Fires on Lesvos
Several wildfires occurred this month, luckily they didn’t reach the structures in- and outside of Moria RIC and no one was directly hurt. Accusations from the far right that refugees had lit the fire as well as accusations that the far right had started the fire led to a rise in tensions on the island. As of now, it’s unclear how the fires started.
At the same time, fires are often lit in and outside Moria RIC in order to stay warm or cook. This is very dangerous indeed because the tents are very close to one another, but the people in and outside Moria RIC have no other method to stay warm or cook.

On Lesvos a demonstration was organised by locals who stated that the "the island is in danger" and that patrols were necessary to prevent refugees from lighting fires. Those gathered believed that refugees and migrants were responsible for a local forest fire. Six people were injured after a car accident during the gathering. At a later stage, locals attacked the van of an NGO, which was able to get away after police intervention.

Inhuman conditions in Moria, leading again to a death
A 19-year old man died after being stabbed at Moria RIC after a fight which was reportedly triggered by a stolen phone. Another 19-year old was hospitalized this month after being stabbed in the chest.

Fines for Doctors without Borders and the Ministry of Immigration
The urban planning faction of the Municipality of Mytilene imposed a fine on Doctors without Borders (35,000 Euros) and the Ministry of Immigration (25,000 Euros) for arbitrary constructions outside Moria RIC. This fine was specifically for the medical infrastructure that has been set up by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the North Aegean Region and "Doctors Without Borders" to be able to deal with the coronavirus pandemic among the people of Moria RIC. The structures will now have to close by the 29th of July. This will seriously burden the operation of the Mytilene Hospital in the case of a coronavirus outbreak on the island.

Documented Pushbacks
The Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL) released a report in which illegal widespread and systematic push-backs by the Greek authorities have been documented. LCL claims that the evidence it has collected demonstrates that the "Greek government is openly pursuing a policy of deterrence and violent disruption of migrant crossings, with little regard for its obligations deriving from international law and specifically from the non-refoulement principle – and even less for the lives of those seeking sanctuary." The Greek authorities repeatedly denied that such push-backs are taking place.
Read more: https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/26039/legal-ngo-documents-collective-expulsions-by-greek-authorities-in-aegean

Closed Camps
It has been stated that in the coming months information systems will be put in place on all sites. All centres will have “fencing, entrance gates, electronic entrance cards with fingerprint control and therefore strict control of those entering and leaving”. The closed structures on Kos, Leros and Samos will open soon.

As said last month, several thousand recognised refugees have been evicted from camps and structures on the islands as well as on the mainland. Currently more than 11’000 people have suffered from these evictions. Many of these people are highly vulnerable. MSF (Doctors without Borders) called on the Greek Government to stop the evictions and offer adequate housing since many of these thousands are now stranded in the streets without shelter. Greece received financial support from the European Union in February to expand housing options, but as of now nothing has happened. On the contrary: in June The Greek Ministry of Migration decided to reduce the costs for shelter of asylum seekers by up to 30 %.

On the 21st of July the first flight with forced returns to Pakistan took place. This deportation is part of the plan of forced returns by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum.

Picture of the month: Hiwa Project, Athens

Dana & Kamara_Hiwa project
Kamara and Dana – two amazing sportsmen, who opened their own project named “Hiwa” a year ago in Athens. The met at OHF while teaching sports as community volunteers. They not only bring sports to the people, but they bring hope and happiness. Hiwa’s activites are open to everyone. You find them in Thiras Street 42, Athens.
Dana and Kamara, you guys are amazing! Keep up the good work and we strongly encourage everyone to support their Hiwa Project (follow under @projecthiwa). Currently they need contributions in kind like sport clothes, boxing gloves, bandages for taekwondo and kickboxing, football equipment etc. Besides that, financial donations would be used for fans, restoration of the basement and financial support to the trainers. You can support them via the bank account of Attika Human Support by adding “Project Hiwa” as payment reason.
Bank: Alpha Bank
Account name: Attika Human Support
IBAN: GR23 0140 6010 6010 0200 2015 853

Here are short messages from the founders:
"On Lesvos I was working as a taekwondo trainer, Kamara as a fitness trainer. When we came to Athens, we had nothing to do. We couldn't find any sport organisation for refugees or for poor people in general, giving trainings for free. There are a lot of NGOs on the islands, but not here in Athens. When refugees arrive here, life is very difficult for them. We saw a lot of them, full of energy, full of power but with too many empty times, nothing to do and no place to go. For me, sport is amazing, it gives the possibility to use our energy in a positive way. That's why we started Project Hiwa, Kamara and me, with the support of Three Peas and Attika Human Support. We called the project Hiwa because in Kurdish Sorani, my mother tongue, it means hope. That is what we want to give the people."

"The meaning of the project is to give hope to refugees and asylum seekers. That’s why Project Hiwa is so important to us. Dana and I, we were together on Lesvos, we worked as sport trainers in One Happy Family. We got and gave there a lot of hope. Now we are continuing by ourselves here in Athens. But we need more support to continue the project, to continue giving hope because we cannot afford it alone. Our trainings are important in the everyday life of our students and trainers, we have to keep it up – with your support we can do it!"

News from the Community Centre

Reopening still not possible
In recent weeks the cleaning and reconstruction of our main building and the whole OHF area took place. We would be ready to reopen, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the Greek authorities decided again to extend (as said above) the restrictive measures for refugees and asylum seekers living in the Aegean camps, including Moria RIC. Currently the extension will last until the 2nd of August 2020. People are stuck in overcrowded camps, lacking water, with insufficient medical facilities and nowhere to go. This includes not being able to go to One Happy Family – Community Centre. A place that has been a calming and positive space for so many.
We will continue fighting for human rights for everyone and will provide the safe space of OHF as soon as possible.

Beautification of our Community Centre
Our whole area of OHF has always been a very busy place, construction and renovations could be found everywhere. Currently we are ready to reopen, but are using this time when we can’t to embellish the whole area. For example, this month there were cleaning evenings to repaint the tables, clean the fences and windows and organise the storage containers. It’s all about beautifying the place in preparation for the reopening.
repainting tables_July 2020
Update from the International School of Peace
Currently – due to Covid-19 flight restrictions – the International School of Peace (ISOP) is present on the Island with only one international coordinator and their amazing team of teachers. They all work tirelessly to make sure that educational activities, lessons and meetings are still taking place, even without having a specific building. The teaching methods became more flexible to ensure the ability to teach in various spaces. Weekly activities for groups of different ages led by the teachers are taking place near the camp in makeshift tents. School material and lessons are partly sent via online platforms and material is handed out directly to the students as well. Regarding a school structure, ISOP would be ready to rebuild, yet due to the situation chose the option of renting an alternative school structure and renovating it- instead of rebuilding from scratch. This is mostly because it is cheaper and faster and will enable the school to start full operations much more quickly. But as long as the students are prohibited from leaving the camp, this doesn’t make sense. ISOP, as well as OHF, has always worked WITH the people regarding their needs, so it may be needed to adapt the idea about the structures. If the lockdown continues or the camps are turned into closed camps, the current strategy will be to partner with organizations that have already been operating educational frameworks within or near the camp and to maximize teaching potential together.

This would be a major shift for ISOP, but the most important thing is to focus on re-establishing school activity in the best way possible for the students. The instability and harsh conditions in the camp throughout the past few months have emphasized how much a stable school structure is needed.

Online language classes for our community volunteers
From April to July OHF offered Greek and English classes for our community volunteers and some CT members joined as well.
This is what two of the teachers say:

Online Greek classes
“This April, during that difficult time that we had, we decided with OHF to give online Greek classes. We met twice a week and anyone was welcome to join! I am a Greek native speaker and I helped students practice simple and useful Greek sentences for everyday life. I tried to provide detailed explanations, studying material and appropriate feedback during our weekly meetings. On top of that, participants could practice with each other in a relaxed and chilled environment. It was a great experience that made us forget the current situation and focus on something important in a fun way!” (Selin, Greek teacher)

Online English Classes
“With COVID-19, all of us have had to make changes in our daily lives. The new normal of social distancing meant staying physically apart and instead developing new ways connect with one another. With in-person English classes unable to continue at OHF, we began online English classes for our community helpers. Several former OHF volunteers taught the classes using Zoom. I really enjoyed this opportunity to teach, keep in contact with those I met during my time as a volunteer, and meet new people. We learned English and other new things from each other, and made some fun memories as well. Even though we were apart, with adaptation and Zoom, we were able to be together!” (Emily, English teacher)

Safe Passage Socks – new colours!
Who says socks aren't for summer?
Our new safe-passage socks are here and they are just bubbling with summer feeling.
Whether as a feel-good addition to evening Netflix hours, as an eye-catcher under the suit pants, for the jogging round through the woods or as a gift for friends and family - socks are there for everyone!
By buying the socks, you support OHF not only financially but also visually. Bring colour to your everyday life and set a sign of safe passage for all.
The socks made of organic cotton are produced in Switzerland and are very comfortable to wear. All the profits go directly to us and support the people on Lesvos.

For the somewhat classier among you there is also the black edition of the socks again.

For more details and to order: https://ohf-lesvos.org/en/socks/

#MeetTheFamily: Selin

We want to warmly welcome Selin, a wonderful young woman that volunteered with OHF over the last few months, into our Coordination team on the ground. Selin will be responsible for the administration, including being the main contact person for the accountant and lawyer for administrative matters. She will also be supporting the integration of our community volunteers, do casework and PR and media relations with local/national outlets. She has already supported our team on the ground amazingly these last few months!

Selin says: “I was born and raised in Mytilene from a Greek father and a Turkish mother. Since I was a kid I loved being in contact with people of different cultures, different nationalities and different ages. That’s the reason why I chose to study fitness and dance, as those can be a link between people from all over the world with no exceptions. After the refugee crisis hit, I felt I had to do something to help and I started volunteering. In January of 2020 I started volunteered with One Happy Family and today I am so happy to announce, that I am a member of the coordination team! I try to give my support to anyone who needs it and help as I am a link between the organization and locals.”

Thank you already dear Selin and we’re very happy to have you amongst our team.

More information in some articles

DW: Greece, Refugees attacked and pushed back in the Aegean: https://www.dw.com/en/greece-refugees-attacked-and-pushed-back-in-the-aegean/a-53977151

Vice: How Greeces biggest refugee camp avoided a catastrophic coronavirus outbreak:

Human Rights Watch: Greece, investigate pushbacks collective expulsions:

Doctors without Borders (MSF): Greece evicts vulnerable refugees leaves them streets:
Content: Jael Tobler
Date: 29.7.2020
One Happy Family | https://ohf-lesvos-org | info@ohf-lesvos.org | @ohflesvos
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