OPEN BORDERS documents the Ritsona and Pireaus refugee camps in Greece.
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There are fifty-thousand refugees from Syria and the Middle East stranded in Greece since the Greek-Macedonian border, the migration gateway to Northern Europe, closed in March 2016. Conditions in camps are deplorable and there is little news from the outside world -- residents have no choice but to wait to recieve asylum or to be deported back to Turkey (as decided by the recent EU-Turkey deal). Refugees are scattered throughout Greece in quickly and shoddily established camps and detention centers. Piraeus port in Athens held a few thousand refugees until it was evacuated for tourist season, while Ritsona refugee camp, an hour outside the city, holds roughly six-hundred people, many of them children.
An excerpt from my essay on the experience of volunteering in Ritsona refugee camp:
As volunteers, we strive to make life in camp better, knowing that none of the initiatives can give people back all they have lost — so many have lost family; others, their children; all have lost their homes and their country, not to mention their careers — nor can it change the direness of the situation at Ritsona. One question resounds in my head, “How can we allow people to live this way?” We cannot go back to our air-conditioned hotel rooms at the end of the day, or return home to our daily lives and neglect what we have witnessed. We cannot neglect it when people must plead for water; when they must sleep on the floor of an overcrowded tent; when human excrement lies scattered on the ground; when medical care is inadequate; when sanitation is an afterthought; when children go years without school and grow up without an education; when ethnic clashes escalate into dangerous riots; when there is no news from the outside about when policy will change; when the asylum process is painfully slow and disorganized; when families remain split apart in separate countries; when life savings have been depleted by smugglers to cross Turkey and the Aegean Sea; and most detrimentally of all, when the border of Greece and Macedonia, the route to a better future in Europe, stays closed and refugees face deportation to Turkey.
View full essay here.