overview from OHF

One Happy Family

March 2020

With the situation at breaking point on Lesvos, we bring you a different style of Newsletter. We would like to update you about the current situation and what this means for One Happy Family.

We are sorry - the OHF has been closed temporarily from Tuesday on last week. Our plan is to reopen from Tuesday the 3rd of March on.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Lesvos.

No more camps, no more violence, and support the immediate transfer of asylum seekers and refugees to the mainland and other European countries.

Closing our Community Centre is for us, always the last option. We want OHF to be a safe space for every single one of our visitors. OHF is a place where can come to instead of staying in the camp, where they can learn something new, where they can rest, where they are treated humanely. Above all, where they feel safe. So, it’s with a heavy heart that we announce that we have been closed from last Tuesday on.

Unfortunately, the current conditions urge us to do so. The situation on Lesvos (and the other Greek Islands, especially Chios and Samos) is horrendous. There are more than 20’000 people living in and outside of Moria RIC. These people stuck on the island, waiting for their asylum request to be proceeded or answered. They live in the most inhumane and undignified conditions, right on Europe’s doorstep. The locals of Lesvos are suffering. This crisis has been going on for 5 years. They have been warm and welcoming to the people who have come to their beautiful island. They have supported projects and people from all over the world. However, many are now tired, they are suffering, and they have had enough.

There have been protests from many different groups on the island. All fought for different reasons, but all wanting the same outcome. At times, these groups have clashed, as they cannot see they want the same thing: to be free to leave the island. There has been teargas, force and violence used by police in many of these protests - both against the local and refugee population.

The Moria Camp population have protested again the inhumane conditions that they are forced to live in, in Moria. The local Lesvos population have also been protesting the bad conditions in which refugees and asylum seekers live. They are crying for help from Europe - they do not want their island turned into a camp, they are angry, tired and suffering.
The Greek government nevertheless started work on the new closed camp at Matamados. This was breaking point for the local population. Riots started between local police and Lesvos residents. The Greek government sent in riot police from Athens to back up their decision to continue with their plan of this new closed camp – despite the clear “No, it’s enough” of the locals.
The tension on the island is palpable: We want ALL residents on the island to be safe.

We want people to be safe in their own countries, to be safe if they feel the need to move to another region of the world, to be safe if they arrive somewhere else and ask for asylum. With this current situation, we cannot guarantee the safety of our dear visitors and helpers in our Community Centre. We hope to be able to reopen our safe space as soon as possible. We will be keeping a close eye on the situation and adapt our plans accordingly.

Please follow the situation on the Greek islands and share it with the world.

The Greek islands need a solution that takes into account the human rights of everyone!
Greece clearly can’t deal with it alone; Europe needs to act!

What can you do?

Inform yourself about the situation, on social media, from newspapers etc.
Try to read various media outlets to get a balanced view, and always find out what the background and history of any media outlet is. Read media articles from different countries and political sides, use google translate if needed. Messages shared on social media offer near real time updates but be aware that the content you see may be selective and highly biased. Algorithms in social media are designed to show you more of the things you like and follow, in order to maximize your time you spend on their platforms, in order to present you more advertisements, which is how they make money in the end, so just be aware of the mechanisms behind social media.

Speaking of social media, you might encounter many forms of hate speech and racism. If you see anything like that, please report it.
Social media platforms have introduced tools to report this quite easily, and the more people, the faster posts and accounts can be taken down. Don’t engage in discussions only with toxic people, it will not change their mind, and will only add to increased visibility of their posts (“don’t feed the trolls”). The following guides (with screenshots) show you how to report a post: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-identify-and-report-hate-speech-on-social-media-1831018803 and https://www.coe.int/en/web/no-hate-campaign/reporting-on-social-media-platforms.

Raise awareness of the situation with the people in your surroundings.
The reasons why this and similar situations exist are highly complex and there is no simple answer or solution, but it involves everyone. Decisions are made on a political level high up, but politicians are elected by the people, and companies, which might influence politics, depend on the consumers of their products and services. It is important to share what is happening and raise questions and press for action to the people in charge. IF you are in a political party, try to put the subject high up in their agenda. If you know MPs (members of parliament) write to them. Let journalists know that they should cover the situation. Tell your friends about it. There are extremists on all sides of the political spectrum, but there is a big group of people in the “middle” who don’t have an opinion yet, or don’t go voting or don’t know how to take action.
Please keep sharing this!

News from the Community Centre

Increasing visitors and safety
We have seen a huge increase in the number of visitors coming to OHF each day. With nearly 1’000 visitors each day, we are concerned about safety on site, and has led us to think about to limit our capacities to a certain amount of people per day. We have not decided anything as of yet, as we want the Community Centre to be an accessible and open space for all. Safety is one of our main concerns, and with the current developments on the island, this is something that we may have to act on.

Control of NGOs
The Greek authorities have recently restarted the registration process of NGOs who are working on the island. We have seen in the past some NGOs being shut down by the authorities for various reasons. We have always been conscious about working cooperatively and transparently with the local authorities.

With tensions high on the island, we received a visit from the local authorities to review the Community Centre. The authorities walked around the facility, recording names of people involved in the project, checking all our registration papers, including individual registration papers. The authorities appeared pleased with our cooperation. Yet, it has left us feeling a bit anxious - we are not sure what may lay ahead of us.

Media Updates

Here is a selection of detailed news articles regarding the current situation. Despite the tense mood, it is encouraging to see that this is making headlines over Europe.

Efstratios Tzimis, the deputy mayor of Mytilene, Lesvos states “It’s a very bad turn of events when Greeks turn against the Greeks”.




Plans for new camp:
The site for the closed refugee camp is near Matamados, about a 45-minute drive north of Mytilini.



Difficulties in asylum procedure:


What is happening in Turkey and Syria?

As we write this newsletter, breaking news out of Turkey claims that Turkey will no longer uphold their side of the EU-Turkey deal. There are close to 1 million Syrian refugees waiting to cross into Turkey from Syria. Assad’s Regime forces are closing in on Idlib, and the surrounding area. With the regime killing Turkish soldiers in the fighting, it appears that Erdogan has had enough. Erdogan will apparently open the Turkish-Syrian border for 72 hours. He has clearly stated that Turkey cannot support another 1 million refugees. Turkey will no longer stop the flow of asylum seekers into Europe. This will add fuel to the fire, so to speak, with the situations on the Aegean Islands. It could be a wakeup call, for Europe to finally ACT.




We hope that next month, we can get back to business and keep you informed of all the great things happening at One Happy Family.

Again, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your continuous support and belief.
Content: Nicolas Perrenoud, Bridget Chivers, Jael Tobler
Date: 28.02.2020
One Happy Family | https://ohf-lesvos-org | info@ohf-lesvos.org | @ohflesvos
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