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One Happy Family

February 2020

Situation on Lesvos

Arrivals in January
It’s a new year with unfortunately exactly the same attitude of doing nothing to change the situation from the European Governments. As of the 31st of January, 79 boats with 2.901 human beings reached the shores of the Aegean Islands. 41 of them arrived on the Island of Lesvos and 1.616 people that were brought to Moria RIC.
163 boats were stopped by the Turkish Coastguard, and the 5.911 people on these boats (numbers as of the 29th of January) and have been brought back to Turkey where they will spend some time in custody for illegally crossing the border.

Moria is not safe
The camp is now - with officially (as of the 30st of January 2020) 19.305 human beings – huge. The picture shows it all.
WhatsApp Image 2020-01-23 at 16.40.45(1)
Picture taken by Dimitris Tosidis

What these pictures can’t show is how unsafe Moria is. There are tensions and fights on a regular basis, the camp facilities aren’t safe for this many people. 42% of the people on Lesvos are children. More than 7 out of 10 are younger than 12 years old. Around 17% of the children are unaccompanied or separated from their families.
The situation in Moria leads to injuries every day and in the last week fights led to at least 2 deaths and one suicide. The inhuman conditions that people have to live in increase the frightening atmosphere every day.

Numbers of people on the Greek Islands
The official numbers as of the 30th of January 2020 show that 41.771 people seeking safety are stuck in and outside the camps and a few other accommodation facilities on the Aegean Islands. Compared to this: inhabitants of the islands are around 210.000 people.

Demonstrations and strikes on the Islands
On the 22nd of January all activities came to a standstill on Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Leros. The public and private sectors held a general strike to protest the government policy on migration. They demanded the decongestion of the islands and opposed the government’s plans for closed camps on the islands, for example with a sign saying “No Guantanamo on Samos”. But they also demanded the control of the NGOs operating on the islands, better guarding of the border and support for the local communities with health and security structures. A frequently used chant was “We want our islands back, we want our life back!”. In Mytilini around 7,000 people joined the protests, the main participants coming from the surrounding villages and not from Mytilini itself.

Women protest against Moria
Hundred of women from Moria RIC marched on the 30th of January in Mytilini against the lack of support for women as well as against the violence of the camp and against being stuck in this kind of camp.

Plans of the Greek government
The Greek government announced in early January that it will go ahead with creating the new closed centers, this will mean that Moria will be closed as well. Petsas, the government spokesman, said that there will be a transition phase where both camps will co-exist but that it has been decided that Moria will be shut down. The new closed centre is planned to be built in Antissa, West Lesvos, close to Eressos. On Samos the construction for the new closed centre already started in Zervos.
This is all occurring despite the clear protest from the locals. Kostas Moutzouris, the regional governor of the North Aegean, said: “We are not discussing a new centre unless there is de-congestion and the current centres are run within capacity.” But Athens stuck to its plans.

“Floating wall”
The Greek government proposed to install a 2.7 km long system of floating dams off the coast of Lesvos to deter new arrivals of asylum seekers from Turkey. The fence will be 110cm high, 60cm under and 50cm over water. It will be equipped with flashing lights, and is intended to be deployed first outside Lesvos, later, if successful, outside Chios and Samos. Price is estimated to be 500,000 Euros. Government spokesman and Defense Minister confirmed the reports on Thursday following sceptical reactions. “It is the first phase of a pilot program,” to start initially of Lesvos, said spokesman Petsas. “We want to see if it works,” he added.
This announced measure has been already strictly condemned by Amnesty International. Concerns have been risen how life-saving assistance could be provided with such a wall and that it isn’t compatible with international law.

New hosting structures on the mainland
10 new hosting structures are supposed to be set up on the Greek mainland with large tents which can be heated, and more permanent containers. It has been announced that the first 10,000 people are to be transferred by the end of February and total capacity is said to be 15,000 people.

At least 140 children with chronic diseases or deathly illnesses in Moria Camp
Doctors without borders stated that the Greek authorities in Athens are not allowing sufficient medical care for at least 140 children by keeping them stuck in Moria Camp. These children, sometimes babies with illnesses like diabetes, asthma or cardiac diseases, have to live under the catastrophic hygiene conditions of Moria with insufficient medical care and medication. Doctors Without Borders asked the Greek authorities to immediately transfer these children to the mainland or other countries where their needed medical treatments could be assured.

Stage 2 – Petition
As mentioned in the past newsletter, it was been announced that the Stage 2 transit camp will have to close. A petition has been launched to keep it running. Please take a minute and sign this petition:

Re-establishing of a Greek Ministry of Migration
After the election of the conservative government under Mitsotakis, the Ministry of Migration had abolished the ministry of migration as one of the first steps in their new policy regarding migration. It was now announced that this ministry will be reopened with Panagiotis Mitarakis serving as Minister of Migration.

Picture of the month: New Year at OHF

new year at OHF
New year at OHF (by Melissa Silver)
Streamers burst into the air and my eyes filled with happy tears as I looked down on the beaming faces staring up at me from the roof. I was up there to ring in the new year with just a handful of others - helpers and volunteers to count down to 2020...

The night was filled with music and dancing; a raffle; countless photos with our photo booth, hand crafted by one of OHF’s very own carpenters. And, of course, the main event of the night - just like every day - was a delicious feast created for us by the OHF kitchen team.

...10...9...8... I just hope that 2020 brings everyone some stability, some relief from this situation. Your dreams certainly change when you come here - you find yourself wishing for just the basic human rights for these beautiful people you now call your friends. 3...2...1... and I quietly thanked OHF for everything that it does for everyone here - Happy New Year.
"While I’m waiting for my interview
I can do something useful."
Abdul, Adult School Director

News from the Community Centre

Busy start into this new year
After the New Years celebration with our extended family, we started a very busy 2020. We had several days with more than 1,300 people at our Community Centre. This month more than 19.800 people came to the Community Centre and spent the day here.
We’re very happy about each and every person that can benefit from the services but sometimes we are struggling as well with the amount of visitors – when the Community Centre started we thought we could provide a place for around 400 people. The increase is clearly visible!

Crowdfunding: Reusable cups
We need your support to make “A reusable cup – for every visitor at the Community Centre” happen.
Please support this crowdfunding by sharing it with your family and friends or by donating – every small amount counts. We also have now some new unique handmade items (cups and postcards) from the Community Centre that can be chosen as a gift.
Here the short-link to read more and share:
A big thank you from all of us!
reusable cup
A lot of construction at OHF
There is currently a lot of construction going on outside to improve and equip the Community Centre for the high amount of visitors we are receiving each month. Faraz, one of our amazing carpenters, and his team as well as the Makerspace planned it and are currently building a new roof to provide shade and safety from the rain in front of the main building as well as another next to the library. This will allow us to cover the food line on rainy days. Around 120 people can stand under the shade.
construction OHF

Inside the projects: Makerspace

makerspace stuff
What is the Lowtech Makerspace?
It's exactly what it says 'on the tin' but also, so much more!!!
The Makerspace is run by our partners Low-tech with Refugees and is not only a place for making new things, but also for fixing broken ones and for learning new skills.
A (very noisy) hive of activity, the Makerspace is always full of women and men hammering, welding and fixing up everything from chairs to phones!
Amongst their many projects, the Makerspace has been developing low-tech solutions for the everyday problems faced by our visitors and helpers. For example, how to increase comfort and warmth when living in ridiculously overcrowded insufficient accommodation (if indeed a flimsy summer tent can be classed as accomodation in these freezing cold, stormy and blustery winter months!)
One solution which the Makerspace came up with is a thin mattress, made from the foam in discarded life jackets and then covered in emergency foil blankets. This not only makes things a little more comfortable, but also insulates and helps people to keep at least a little bit warmer at night. Every day you see visitors working alongside helpers and volunteers to make more of these!
They have also made many rocket stoves which are a safe but effective way to cook and keep people warm.
Every morning, as OHF opens, there is a flood of people with broken bicycles to bring to the Makerspace. Not only do they help them to fix these, they also teach them how, so that they have these skills for life. In addition to this, you can borrow a bike for a day, giving people a lot more freedom to get in to town, or, away from everything. In November alone, almost 700 bikes were borrowed or repaired at the Makerspace!
They also hold workshops to teach people new skills. In these you can learn to make many essential items out of very little and often from things you would normally throw away; solar powered ovens, water filters, low-tech washing machines and even portable power banks are just a few of the amazing items to be created in their workshops! They also hold women only workshops, teaching them how to use tools and then how to make things with those tools!
On the more fun side of things, there are many pottery workshops and you often see people with their own handmade and very cherished cup!
On a more personal level, the Makerspace gives people who already have skills the opportunity to use them. People make new things every day; from furniture, to decorations and even, our secure tool safe!



Abdul Meet the family
Abdul from Ghana – the very only AfroKurd in the world! He should be in the Guiness World Records Book, as he says himself! And, if you don’t believe us: Come and meet him, speak kurdish with him or dance Semame! :)
Abdul is as well our Adult School Coordinator, and what a passionate one!
He joined One Happy Family almost a year ago, in February 2019, as a security. For around 4 months he worked as a security guard and taught back then once a week, as a supplement for another teacher.
When it was decided that a helper should run the Adult School, Abdul applied, was chosen and has been doing an incredible job since the first day!
We are so happy to spend our days with you, Abdul, you’re such a smart man! Sharing your wish and message with the people is an honour!

Abdul’s wish:
I wish that this place will be bigger because so many people want to be here. Many people want to register to come to school but unfortunately we can’t accept them because our capacity is full. Currently we already have 300-400 students every day.
Abdul’s message to you:
This place makes me very happy! While I’m waiting for my interview I can do something useful.
Thank you Abdul for your dedication, your thoughts, your energy, your talent, your help, your spirit, your smile and your presence here at One Happy Family and the Adult School.
Content: Melissa Silver, India Ashworth, Jael Tobler
Date: 31.01.2020
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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