Refugees in Greece are facing a more uncertain future than ever before amid political turmoil and ‘dire’ living conditions.
It comes after Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the country for its move to detain 450 refugees and migrants on a navy ship docked on the island of Lesbos.
And with Turkey now claiming to have ‘opened the gates’ to the Europe, a move at the end of February which has sparked a row in Brussels and raised tensions with Greece, thousands of desperate people are trying to make the journey – with many attempting to sail across the dangerous Aegean Sea.
It’s a journey which, not only costs migrants almost everything they have, but could result in death.
However, for those who have successfully made the trip to Greece, conditions in the camps are getting worse, and last month saw babies and children amongst those tear-gassed by riot police, after refugees held protests around the conditions they were being kept in.
Those conditions, particularly within the Moira camp on Lesbos, see them living amongst raw sewage and uncollected rubbish in makeshift shelters, with widespread problems of disease and no way to control it.
One British volunteer (who did not want to be named) told The Telegraph: “People were attacked with tear gas even though it was peaceful.
“Women and children were beaten by the police. We helped people who had been affected by the gas by giving them Coca-Cola to wash with. People were crying. People collapsed.”
Now, the UN has described how it is ‘deeply concerned’ about escalating tensions and has urged Greece to accelerate plans to bring thousands of refugees from the islands to the mainland, despite the country announcing it would be suspending asylum applications for a month – something which has led to warnings from EU officials that the right to asylum must be upheld.
And at another, much smaller, camp on Lesbos, support workers say they have now been told by the Ministry of Migration that they are not to publish any audio, videos or pictures from the site across social media.
That’s as the camp faces increased pressure on already-stretched services, as hundreds of people move in since the beginning of the year – and with more than 3,600 residents, they have medical supplies for just 800.
Now, more than ever, projects like social enterprise Love Welcomes are becoming more important, helping those within the camp get direct access to the services they need.
The project works by hiring refugee women directly from the camp to make things like welcome mats, placemats and purses which are then sold all over the world.
And, not only do the women receive a full salary for the work, but they also build key life skills that could help them land jobs in the future, while profits from the project are invested back into services within the camp.
To find out more about the Love Welcomes project, click here.