Returning is not an option: refugees’ hopes for the future

Fatima, 47 and her daughter Maisa, 19, are Syrians from Pakistan. “Life in the camp is very hard, one day is like a lifetime. We’re feeling like we don’t have a future and don’t know how long it will be like this.” Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam
Fatima, 47 and her daughter Maisa, 19, are Syrians from Pakistan. “Life in the camp is very hard, one day is like a lifetime. We’re feeling like we don’t have a future and don’t know how long it will be like this.” Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam

Since the beginning of 2016, an average of around 1,700 people have reached Greek shores every single day. Lacking safe and legal alternatives, they put their lives in the hands of smugglers and risked everything during perilous sea and land crossings.

Following the EU-Turkey agreement that came into effect on 20th March 2016, 53,000 people have been left stranded in the mainland of the country and on the islands, in detention centers, abandoned buildings and make shift camps, where poor living conditions and lack of adequate food, medical care, and information have heightened anxiety, depression, and uncertainty.

On the island of Lesvos and across the Northwest Epirus Region, Oxfam is supporting over 3,000 people in six camps, providing clean water, sanitation, shelter, food, and non-food items such as hygiene kits, tarpaulins and blankets.

Fayez 43, and his wife Nour 28, from Syria, are staying in the Kara Tepe camp with their four children. Fayez 43, and his wife Nour 28, from Syria, are staying in the Kara Tepe camp with their four children. They left Syria because of the conflict. Fayez said "On the day we left it was like hell. We didn't have time to pack anything, we left with just the clothes we were wearing."

"The journey was very hard. When we reached Aleppo, a huge battle broke out in front of us. We had to wait out on the road and it was terrifying, the children were so scared. We had to walk through a big valley out in the open with all the noise and we were so worried for our children."

"We never expected to be in this situation. Our hope for the future is to just be in a safe environment. A country where our children can go to school and be safe and sound. We must hope that things can go from bad to better, not from bad to worse."

Approximately 800 people are staying in Kara Tepe Kamp in UNHCR units.Kara Tepe Kamp is on the Southeast of Lesvos.

Approximately 800 people are staying in Kara Tepe Kamp in UNHCR units. Oxfam provides meals twice a day (lunch and dinner) in the camp. Five groups of volunteers distribute the food from unit to unit at each mealtime.

Many other camps need improvements to protect people's safety and well-being. In Filippiada camp, Epirus region, where 500 people are living in UNHCR tents, Oxfam has provided toilets, showers, tanks, which take away  waste shower water, and standing sinks which provide clean water.

In Tara Kepe Camp, Oxfam provides meals twice a day (lunch and dinner).In Katsikas camp, 1,000 people are living in army tents, they are exposed to the weather and conditions are poor. Oxfam will be replacing the tents with UNHCR family tents and installing wooden floors, to give people protection from the weather and groundwater.

We are also conducting regular focus groups with women and men to assess their needs in all camps. This helps to identify vulnerable people so that we can provide extra support through referrals to appropriate services and transport to medical facilities.

21 year-old Faramaz is originally from Afghanistan, showed us a photo of his two brothers and nephew who are in Germany. 21 year-old Faramaz is originally from Afghanistan, showed us a photo of his two brothers and nephew who are in Germany.  Faramaz's family moved to Iran several years ago. He is staying in the Kara Tepe camp, with his mother, father and younger brother.

Faramaz's family left Iran because they had no recognised nationality and were constantly marginalized. "We sold everything that we owned and paid smugglers to take us to Greece. We had to walk two days through the mountains and snow to get to Turkey, then another twenty days to the coast. We were part of a group with three other families and everyone had children, it was really hard for them to keep walking."

"I try to keep busy in the camp and to help out, everyone here is doing the same. My older brother is a hairdresser and taught me, so I now volunteer three days a week to cut people's hair. My hope for the future is that we are able to go to Germany and make the same household again."      

Mastura, 45, and her children had to leave their home in Afghanistan, after her family was threatened and her husband went missing. Mastura, 45, and her children had to leave their home in Afghanistan, after her family was threatened and her husband went missing. "I was so scared that I didn't say goodbye to anyone, I just sold everything I owned including my business, took my children and ran."

 "We were not able to pack much except clothes. Smugglers took us in a group and we had to walk for nearly 40 days, first through Iran and then to the Turkish coast. When we reached the coast, we were left for six days with no shelter, food and little water. On the sixth night finally we could travel by boat, my young sons were so scared."

 "Before we left, my children were in school and now they are not able to have an education. I never thought we would be in this situation. My hope for the future is not for me, it's for my children. I want them to be safe and have a good life."

Photos: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam