A report by Jokin Orozko, Programme Coordinator on Samos
On Sunday 26th April, two fires broke out in the Vathy refugee camp after escalating tensions between different communities. Camp residents fled the area and looked for safety outside the camp. With no more than isothermal blankets and a few tents, people spent the night outside and exposed. On Monday morning, a third fire began in one of the camp's containers where many families and children reside, creating yet more desperation and fear.
This situation is not new. Two weeks ago, another fire spread in Vial camp on Chios following the death of one woman living in the camp. And in October 2019, an ever bigger fire took place in Samos again, where 700 people lost their belongings and homes.
They are a consequence of the inaction of European politics
These fires are a remembrance, a déjà vu. They are not random: they are a consequence of the inaction of European politics, caused by deprivation of human basic needs and rights.
Due to restrictive measures brought in for COVID-19, much-needed needed help and action has been withheld; unlike last October's fire, we were not able to open our centres as emergency shelters. Nor have distributions of essential items been made easy.
Nevertheless, grassroots NGOs have been working collaboratively to keep providing the basics needs in such circumstances, facing discomfort from the local community and the lack of effective response of the competent authorities.
Therefore, since Sunday, distributions of clothing and basic shelter items have been made, alongside food for families getting ready for Ramadan’s meal, Iftar. Yet these distributions are being made only very slowly and quietly due to existing pandemic measures.
Organisations have been working relentlessly, monitoring distributions, attending the injured, tracking the safety of unaccompanied minors, talking with the authorities and organising ourselves together to give the best response we can.
We are overwhelmed by not finding a sustainable solution to [this crisis].
Around 500 people are currently in this emergency camp, where access to basic needs continues to be challenging. Organisations are trying to do as much as it is possible to relieve the situation, and yet we are overwhelmed by not finding a sustainable solution to it.
Whilst we continue to do what we can on the ground during this sad time, a humane political response needs to be offered to those refugees and asylum seekers trapped here. This response would avoid such tragedies occurring. The current policy causes them.