Refugees in Greece: “We Came Here Because Europe is Supposed to be Civilized”

Amir Karimi/MSF

Nada is 28 years old and from Deir Sur, Syria. She lived in Greece’s Idomeni refugee camp for months before she was removed by police on May 24 with the first group of people to the new Kavala camp. This is her testimony to a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff member who accompanied patients for psychological support. Nada had walked more than an hour to get food and milk for her children.

Yesterday, many police officers turned up at Idomeni. They were wearing strange clothes, they came from everywhere telling us to leave. We were scared they would use tear gas. I have 7 children. I was worried something would happen to my children. Everyone was scared. The police were armed. All the families were scared for their children.

Those who had money have already crossed the border illegally. The ones who don’t have money were hopeful the border would reopen. Or they would improve our living conditions here.

But our situation is terrible in the new camp. We are tired, we have had enough of living like this.  It’s not good, nothing is good there. The food is bad. The toilets and bathrooms are not clean. Idomeni was better. We came here because Europe is supposed to be civilised, but where is the civilisation? Is this how you treat people in a civilised society? We have come to Europe to seek asylum. It’s our right to claim asylum.

My children are very upset. I cannot bathe them. The water point is very far from our tent. It is always extremely hot. How can I use it if it is so hot? I am worried about lack of hygiene in the new camp. I am worried we might catch scabies. My children are scared. I want to die and get out of this.

It is not safe in Syria [bursts out crying, we stopped the interview then she wanted to continue]. They treated us badly in Syria. They treated us badly in Turkey. And they treat us badly in Europe. Why? Are we not human beings too? I am not a human? Do I not have the right to live like them (the Europeans)? Being dead is better.

We were given so many wrong hopes. We were told the border would open so many times. All were wrong hopes. Now they tell us a committee will come and relocate us to different countries but I don’t believe it. It is all lies. We feel humiliated and we have no money left. We were given papers before we left Idomeni that said: “you are stateless.” Are we stateless?!

Read More: Involuntary Eviction from Idomeni Creates Further Hardships for Refugees

On the 24th of May, the Greek police started to evacuate the camp of Idomeni, a transit camp where thousands of refugees have been stranded for over two months without adequate humanitarian assistance and with no access to asylum procedures. In the first hours of the morning, several hundred riot police started to slowly fill buses with the first groups of people to leave. According to Greek authorities at least 37 buses carrying more than 1780 people were evacuated in the first 12 hours. The situation is currently calm and whilst volunteers have been prevented from accessing the camp, MSF still has restricted access and continues to carry out our medical activities with a reduced team of 8 people (medical and deputy fieldco). MSF is not opposed to the movement of people from Idomeni to other locations, if they will be provided with better conditions, and if this is done on a voluntary basis by providing the refugees with sufficient information about the destination so they can take an informed decision. MSF asks the authorities to ensure that volunteers and NGOs are allowed to continue to access the people living at Idomeni camp for as long as they are there.
Amir Karimi/MSF