If you google the small Greek island Lesbos, located close to the Turkish mainland, you will find pictures of a once romantic holiday venue - And a devastating, chaotic refugee camp nowadays. Being so close to Turkey and therefore Syria as well, the island serves as a threshold to Europe, and suffers enormously. Even though a refugee crisis was predictable, no one, not the Greek government, European institutions or the habitats of Lesbos were prepared for what have succeed. And now, after bitter years of struggle, there is no relief in sight: Another winter is coming, another fight of survival for many.
This summer was very long in Europe, spoiling us with sunshine and warm winds till mid-October, but now a wet cold has even arrived in the Mediterranean Sea: Winter is arriving on Lesbos, and Greek officials begun to evacuate the „most vulnerable“ refugees from the island - The others still have to face inhumane life conditions and the deathly cold. An estimated 11.000 refugees are waiting for their European asylum on the island, most live in a huge camp called Moria, which is massively overcrowded.
According to the EU-Turkey deal of 2016, asylum seekers have to wait on the island till their cases were proofed and if they got accepted - If not, they are send back to Turkey. It seems like these people are nowhere welcomed: Moria, the big camp, is a terrible place to be. 70 people share a toilet, there is no efficient water or trash system, a lot of conflicts arise everyday, it is generally very unsafe. One of the biggest challenges is, that most people are very traumatized by the war and terror in their home countries, and even more during their escape journey which led to a place like Moria, with no rest and no change to heal and to process.
Freezing winters can be extremely dangerous as well: With nothing more than thin tents and blankes, no heating systems or warm water, many people get serious sick or die from the cold. How can this happen in Europe of the 21. Century? The European Union has always been a promise of peace, of justice and of stability, but it seems very exclusive: Even though human right conventions bind us to help, European governments and the union itself are sneaking out of their responsibilities.
Even worse: They sign treaties to secure our borders, and it is of little interest, with whom they cooperate. Since 2016, the European Union has strongly cooperate with Turkey, but also with many northern African countries, to interrupted escape routes to Europe. Millions of Euros have been transferred to support border controls in various states, such as Niger, Libya or Tunisia. These countries are heavily criticized for violation of human rights and especially the use of violence against asylum seekers, as NGOs reports.
Now, that it becomes colder in Europe, we should not only complain about gray weather and a harsh, icy wind - We should also think about the people who are freezing at our boarders, who have nothing more then a tent, not even a hot shower. These pictures and thought leave me very angry and speechless, but I needed to share these thoughts and maybe someone will listen. Because we can only end this madness together, but we have to act fast.