Situation Update: January - March 2020 Quarterly Report

The Situation on Chios

March began with the divisive decision by the Greek government to ship materials to Chios for the construction of a highly-disputed and controversial prison-like detention centre for asylum seekers, accompanied by cohorts of armed security staff. This was met with a widespread sense of betrayal, anger and despair. Local protests took a surprisingly violent turn, targeted at the Greek authorities.

These uprisings became the breeding ground for right-wing sentiment, led by a small but effective minority, who carried out a series of targeted attacks on Chios and forcing us to the close our centres for several days.

Read the full report here

Despair at the ever-worsening conditions was aggravated by events on the Turkish-Greek border, where thousands of migrants approached the European border following news that Turkey would no longer uphold the EU-Turkey agreement, and leading to a spate of landings on the Aegean islands in a very small window of time.

These events, compounded now with the looming threat of COVID-19, which Greece's island hospitals are ill-equipped to manage for its own people, let alone the thousands of asylum seekers, are finally beginning to draw the attention of the media and politicians of Europe.

The Situation on Samos

For many, a New Year means new resolutions. For more than 7,500 refugees and asylum seekers on Samos, it means an upcoming year of uncertainty. 2020 has brought a new Greek asylum law, which prioritises new arrivals, making procedures much faster and therefore, less time to prepare or to gain a clear understanding on how the system works. Meanwhile, there have been people left waiting for an answer for over two years.

Trapped between desperation and loss of trust in European human rights policies, Action for Education continues consolidating its path. After one year on Samos, our projects continue to offer holistic support in education, life skills, psychosocial support, community-building, and access to basic nutrition and hygiene facilities. Alongside other organisations, we are committed to strengthening the humanitarian network on Samos through collaboration and communication with both local and refugee communities.

The constant pressures to shut our projects, growing local discomfort and the construction of a new camp have posed foreboding challenges, we nevertheless keep on, committed to relentlessly providing a secure, caring and steady space where routine means safety.

Even the latest COVID-19 outbreak has not stopped us. We remain on the ground, supporting our projects and other projects with our skilled team. We are determined to continue our work, ameliorate this situation, and help to overcome these even more difficult times.

The Impact of Covid-19

Our team is therefore investing their time, energy and expertise into furthering the recently launched Europe Must Act campaign, advocating for a change in EU policy, gathering signatures to support a petition addressed to EU presidents and daily engaging with media to expose the neglect and abuse of human rights in the hotspots.

Though it has been thoroughly disheartening and a huge adjustment for our whole team to take a step back from the community we serve, we are still working, morning to night.

Drawing on our team of experienced teachers, youth workers and community volunteers, we are revising our non-formal education curriculum. It is a welcome luxury to be able to dedicate the much-needed time to review and re-construct a more accessible, dynamic and comprehensive curriculum, which we hope can be a valuable and easily transferrable shared resource for other projects.

We are also working to encourage cooperation and support from international organisations and companies. We are very fortunate to have an extensive support-base who send us material donations and financial support. We are keen to expand this network, promoting collaboration between ourselves and the many solidarians across Europe and the world, realising their support in tangible and meaningful ways. 

Our latest and very exciting project is taking the form of a teacher-training program. Before the closure of our centres, we advertised in the camp for interested candidates to join our volunteer team in the new centre we are creating in Chios. More than just asking volunteers to join an existing team, we envision a new, more sustainable, community-led program which empowers volunteers to lead and deliver a curriculum of language classes and project-based lessons and workshops. Starting from the beginning with our new centre gives us precisely this opportunity to be able to pioneer an innovative, empowering and quite simply, far more sustainable program which we are currently in the process of developing.

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