Bildschirmfoto 2020-09-01 um 14.52.46

One Happy Family

September 2020

New low with a small ray of hope: Illegal pushbacks reach an all-time high, first confirmed cases of corona in an island camp and the re-opening of OHF.

The situation on Lesvos and in Greece

Situation regarding Covid-19 in Greece
The first corona cases were confirmed on the Aegean Islands of Chios and Lesvos in August. On Samos, some cases had already been detected in July.

On Lesvos, a total of 48 people have caught the virus since the start of the pandemic. Of these, 28 were newly arrived refugees and migrants, while the remaining 20 are local residents, two of whom have died (19th of August 2020). In Lesvos, newly arrived groups of people which include some individuals who have tested positive, are being quarantined at the Megala Therma facility in northern Lesvos as well as at Kara Tepe Camp. As already reported last month, no one has access to these quarantine facilities. Not even MSF is allowed in. It is not possible for those already inside the quarantine facilities to isolate from the newly arrived groups. Therefore, this method of quarantine doesn’t protect anyone.

To limit the spread of COVID-19 on Lesvos, some minor measures were announced for the whole island on the 23rd of August: restaurants and entertainment venues must close from midnight until 7 AM and there is a maximum of 50 people allowed for all public and social gatherings. Furthermore, the suspension of employment contracts for employees would become possible, which in turn could further increase economic insecurities for many Greeks and thus foster social tensions on the islands.

Greece has a total of 7684 confirmed corona cases (19th August 2020), most of them located in the border region. Nationwide, there are no lockdowns or limitations on movement in place, except for the camps. This distinction remains an intolerable discrimination and bears a high risk for the health of everyone forced to live in the highly overcrowded camps.

First Covid-19 Cases in an island Camp
While people in Moria and Kara Tepe on Lesvos have been forbidden to leave the camps since March, as of the 13th of August the Vial Camp on Chios is now on lockdown as well after five people tested positive for the virus. This is the first confirmed outbreak of corona in an island camp. It gives reason for great concern since more than 3,800 people live in Vial Camp, which is designed to hold less than a third of that number.

The ongoing restrictions on movement in Moria Camp has decreased access to menstrual hygiene products, an essential need for women. This was reported by the Women’s Media Centre this month.
Of course, access to other assistance such as medical and psychological support remains almost impossible as people are still not allowed to leave the camps. MSF points out that people, especially those who suffered torture or sexual abuse, are likely to face re-traumatization when left without help for such a long period of time.

Health facilities under severe attack
The Greek President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, visited Lesvos for the inauguration of a new health center for women and children located next to Moria Camp on the 21st of August. Her visit was met with an aggressive anti-refugee protest. According to the MSF, a fire was lit just outside the clinic during the inauguration, protesters threw stones at patients, and shouted at MSF staff. The protest was provoked by a group of 30-40 youths and resulted in the injury of the local police chief. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident but rather a repetition of the right-wing attacks on journalists and volunteers in March.
MSF was already under pressure last month. Facing a seemingly arbitrary fine and criminal charges from the Greek authorities, the organisation was forced to close its newly established corona isolation center on Lesvos at the end of July. This significantly reduced the Covid-19 response capacity on the island.

Illegal Pushbacks
This month, the illegal and inhumane practices of the Greek authorities seemed to reach a previously unseen level. Not only have Greek authorities, under observation of NATO and Frontex, pushed back small boats back into international waters, but people have also even been taken from the camps at night, brought onto small dinghies and dragged out into international waters by Greek authorities. A New York Times article unveiled this incredible truth this month in an article: “It was very inhumane,” said Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian teacher, who says masked Greek officials took her and 22 others, including two babies, under cover of darkness from a detention center on the island of Rhodes on July 26 and abandoned them in a rudderless, motorless life raft before they were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.” The article concludes that Greece illegally pushed back at least 1073 people since March 2020.

The Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/world/europe/greece-migrants-abandoning-sea.html
The Answer of the Greek Prime Minister on Christiana Amanpours FB: https://www.facebook.com/262444655369/posts/10164120008795370/
Some of the evidence: https://mare-liberum.org/en/news/involment-germany-illegal-pushbacks-aegean/

Boat arrivals
Between the 17th and 23rd of August, there was not a single boat registered as arrived, although 8 boats started their trip towards the Aegean Islands. All 8 boats with a total of 196 people have been stopped by the Turkish Coast Guard and the police.
Between the 21st of July and the 16th of August, a total of 444 people arrived by boat. On the 25th of August, the Hellenic Coast Guard undertook a major rescue operation and saved 96 people near Rhodos from a damaged vessel. At least two people are believed to be missing. There are reports about a Turkish Coast Guard ship having tried to obstruct this Greek rescue mission.
This leads to a total population of over 28’100 people on the islands, of which 32% are children. Without the illegal push backs, this number would be even higher.
2230 people were transferred to the mainland.
ABR Aug 20
Source: https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/905435479979557

#MeetTheFamily: Julia's Goodbye

Julia, the calm soul of the coordination team, decided to continue on her way and leave OHF after three years. We are deeply thankful for all the positivity, hope and energy Julia brought into the project. All the critical thinking, all the amazing initiatives and all her heart.

This is what Fifie, her coordination team colleague, says about her: Her beauty is in the heart. Born and bred in Switzerland, followed her heart to humanity and landed in Lesvos. Stayed for 3 years, leaving behind her precious family and life to come and assist those in need.

Working in a hostile situation with bravery but never ran short of a smile. Coordinating a community center with the rest of the team members, community volunteers, international volunteers and partners. Doing her everyday tasks with a smile and calmness, being the main contact person between the board and the team on the ground and the female community volunteers would confide in her. Creativity is also in her nature, writing social media stories and decorating the place for special events was done by no one else but Julia.

Thank you Julia for your love, kindness and hope you brought to all of us, all the time.
Julia in our old office
“Music does not know borders,
music does not know languages,
does not know colors, does not know age, does not know the sex.”
Rouddy Kimpioka

News from the Community Centre

Corona measures in place
As reported, the team of volunteers on the island worked very hard throughout the last weeks to get OHF back up and running: The task was not only cleaning and building up the space, but also adapting it to the new reality. The aim was to be as safe as possible for the re-opening. Therefore, the team made instruction charts and awareness raising pictures, hand washing instructions, installed no-touch disinfectant dispensers, implemented mask requirements and separated working places using glass panes. Additionally, MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) provided a corona awareness training for the team. These are very important measures, facing the current increase of corona-cases worldwide and on the island.
WhatsApp Image 2020-08-15 at 11.33.22
New classes started
We are very happy to announce that we were able to start English, Greek, and computer classes. Abiding by all safety measures, a limited number of people can attend the classes and work on the computers which are now located in the main hall.
Even though it is very different from what OHF was before, it is so good to finally have some people back who fill this place with life.
WhatsApp Image 2020-08-15 at 11.33.21-3
Changes in the coordination team
This month, we had two of our dear coordination team members leave. Julia will continue on her way away from Lesvos and Majd will try to find a job. Both are leaving after many years spent with One Happy Family and we are thankful for everything! We wish you all the best and lots of energy for your future steps!

Changes on the ground
The Café is now placed in the old kitchen, for covid-19 related measures and since we are no longer able to cook at OHF. We will still continue providing food to the people but sadly can’t cook it on OHF grounds anymore.
The library doesn’t have a sea-view anymore but is now located at the entrance of OHF.
The cybercafé is now, as mentioned above, located in the main hall.
One Happy Family-branch in Athens
This has been a plan and dream for a long time and slowly it is becoming a reality: Yahia, member of the coordination team, has moved to Athens and is now responsible to help the OHF community volunteers to have a smoother transition from the island to the mainland. He is connecting people with other organisations and supports them with legal aid, asylum offices, schools, universities etc.

Partner News: Refocus Media Lab
We have more positive news from our partners at OHF. After working together during the cleaning and rebuilding, our partner Refocus Media Lab resumed their work. People currently in their asylum process can develop professional media skills through their workshops during their time on Lesvos. Photography, filmmaking and audio work are just some of the main areas covered in the workshop schedule. The course takes place at OHF daily in the afternoons and we are very happy to be able to support this amazing work.

Partner News 2: Yoga and Sport
Long planned and then postponed due to the coronavirus situation, The Yoga Teacher Training organised by Yoga and Sport has finally been able to take place.
Twenty students from the island, both volunteers and people in the asylum process, now participate daily in the programme which will last about one month. After the course they will receive the International Certified Yoga Teacher License, which can have positive impacts on their communities and open future work possibilities. It is great to see the training begin after a long time planning and a lot of hard work.

RAD Music - Rouddy’s success

RAD music
RAD MUSIC stands for Refugees African Dance MUSIC and was founded by the former OHF-volunteer Rouddy Kimpioka. OHF was a safe place for him, where he started to hold open stages every Saturday. That was not enough for him, he wanted to contribute more and therefore started his own project to connect people and bring them a little joy. We asked him if he could tell us more about his successful project:

Rouddy Kimpioka: “The idea to create the RAD Music group came to my mind, because I needed to help people. I had the ambition bring social and psychological assistance to my refugee brothers and sisters who live in Moria camp as asylum seekers and refugees. I wanted to contribute with something that could give them something simple like a smile, telling them that everything has its time, and to give them back the joy they have lost for several years. I wanted to find something that can connect everyone here on Lesvos, refugees, locals and volunteers from all over the world.
On June 7th 2018 I finally had a really good idea: to make music and to dance together. Because from what I have seen, music is the only way that can connect people without distinction and discrimination… music does not know borders, music does not know languages, does not know colors, does not know age, does not know the sex. It is only music. After that I created the name RAD meaning Refugees African Dance, I created the logo, and I started recruiting people.

Since then, we gave a total of 7 concerts here on Lesvos. All of them were great moments between the refugees, the locals and everyone else here on the island.
Projects such as RADMUSIC seek to improve the lives of all people on the island - locals, international volunteers and refugees - by participating in music and dance performances to give members a feeling of autonomy and wellbeing, and to share cultures from all around the world.
Even now during the 5 month lockdown in Moria camp we try with RAD MUSIC to help where we can: we asked for permission for all the musicians of RAD to go town or have an excursion, so they have at least a short break from Moria camp and can feel good for a moment and smile…

If you would like to support RAD MUSIC, you can do so by donating here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/radmusic-fundraiser-refugee-dance-group-lesvos
or by spreading the word about the awesome work Rouddy is doing: https://www.facebook.com/RadMusicLesvos/

What can you do?

Raise your voice together with #EuropeMustAct or join a City Chapter:

Share and spread the word of asylum seekers in Greece and help build political pressure to improve the Situation on the Aegean Islands: https://de.europemustact.org/raisingvoices
You can do more by joining or even starting your own City Chapter. To do so, you find more information here: https://de.europemustact.org/citiesmustact
Content: Isabelle Kaufmann, Anna Drathen, Jael Tobler
Date: 29.08.2020
One Happy Family | https://ohf-lesvos-org | info@ohf-lesvos.org | @ohflesvos
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