Queuing is the first thing he does every morning. Only in line in front of the containers with the toilets: 20 minutes. Showers: 40 minutes. Breakfast: 30 minutes. “Minimum,” says Zabi. There are queues everywhere, when the world is preaching about staying away, about “social distancing”. Distance, here? Zabi’s laugh sounds bitter on the phone. He lives in the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Moria, the name now stands for the failure of European refugee policy.
A camp, located in the hills of the island for about 3000 people, now home to almost 25,000 women, men and children. You’ve gotten through the risky road across Turkey and the Mediterranean to get stuck here.
Since the Corona virus spread in Europe, its location seems more hopeless than ever before .
According to the Johns Hopkins University in Greece, 892 people were infected with the virus on Friday morning, and about three weeks ago there should have been a case on Lesbos.
[Aktuelle Entwicklungen zur Coronavirus-Pandemie können Sie hier im Newsblog verfolgen.]
The question is not whether, but when the virus reaches the camp
The residents of Moria may only leave the camp for a short time, for a walk in the nearby olive groves, where Zabi can also be reached. No one is allowed down the street into the capital Mytilini.
Whether the corona virus reaches the refugee camp is no longer a question. The question is: when?
If a resident in Moria becomes infected with the corona virus, everyone will soon have it. This is what the refugees say – in videos that are circulating online, in interviews. There will be deaths . So far, all appeals to evacuate the camp have reverberated.
On Friday, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli called for an immediate end to misery. “We have to start immediately, at least to evacuate the risk groups, the most vulnerable people, that is people over 60, sick, mothers and of course children,” said the social democratic politician from Italy to the “RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland”. You shouldn’t waste any more time.
In the middle of the week, the lifeboat organization Mission Lifeline raised the alarm. The people of Moria would be left to their own devices, it said on Twitter. Many NGOs have withdrawn employees, medical care in the warehouse has been reduced to a minimum, and the dental clinic where Zabi worked as a dental assistant is also closed for a month for the time being. “If you get sick now, you’re out of luck,” he says.
He tells calmly, without resentment
The 31-year-old arrived in Moria six months ago, he comes from Afghanistan, he says, where he worked as a translator for doctors and psychologists, says Zabi. His asylum application should be decided in a few months. But that’s all now obsolete, the office of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is closed .
He tells it calmly and without resentment. As if an approved asylum application is not the most important thing. And maybe that’s not the case at the moment.
So that the residents of Moria are informed and know how to protect themselves, posters have been hung, says Zabi. It is well known that frequent and thorough hand waxing can be a simple protection against the spread of the virus. But how to follow when the most important thing is not sufficient: water. “There is not enough in the lines,” says Zabi, “we need more.”
When he heard about the first confirmed Corona case on Lesbos weeks ago, he covered himself in the supermarket Disinfectants, respirators and disposable gloves. He also encouraged other refugees to do so, says Zabi. He is now storing these treasures in the container, which he shares with nine other men. One is always on site and guards the property of the other. Nothing is safe in Moria.
People are tired, says Zabi
Die The mood, already tense, is not getting better these days. People are tired, says Zabi, tired from the long wait in the asylum procedure. Many suffered from mental health problems, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder – like him. The fact that he got a place to sleep in a container relatively quickly after a few nights on the floor after his arrival in the warehouse is also due to his state of health, he explains. He takes medication every day.
The work in the dental clinic kept him busy and distracting. Now he has to prevent himself from falling into trouble. A walk between olive trees is not bad, says Zabi and sends the photo of a flower via WhatsApp. In order to keep his thoughts together, he read the medical textbooks that he downloaded onto his cell phone, the Koran and detailed notes; he is on the phone with relatives in Afghanistan and uses Facebook.
It may be that he succeeds in suppressing reality. Maybe he just doesn’t tell the opposite.
“At least once a week a sewage pipe breaks”
“Moria is not a clean, hygienic place,” he says, and it almost sounds cynical considering the images that have been going on from Lesbos to the world for months and weeks. Just a few days ago, the English-language edition of the magazine “Vice” reported on the conditions on site: There is no constant electricity in the camp, running water irregularly, hot water not at all. Overflowing garbage containers are on the side of the road. “At least once a week, a sewage pipe breaks and a stream of human feces flows through the camp.”
Mission Lifeline wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, in Moria the scabies had broken out . And on the same day: “For children and adolescents, the food supply is reduced to 1000 kcal / day. The output of bottled drinking water per family is reduced to 9 liters per day – even for families with more than 6 people. ”
For comparison: The German Society for Nutrition recommends a calorie intake of 1700 to for children from seven to under ten years depending on physical activity 2000.
The Vice-President of the Greens, Ricarda Lang, wrote on Twitter: “Instead of finally evacuating the islands, European governments are simply waiting for #Corona to spread out there. It’s a deadly denial of politics. “Lang supports the campaign and petition of her party colleague Erik Marquardt -” LeaveNoOneBehind “- who is committed to getting the refugees out of Moria as quickly as possible.
The virus does not make everyone equal
In times when everyone is worried about their own security, solidarity is rare. The virus that threatens people all over the world in the same way doesn’t make everyone the same. The case of Moria terrifyingly reveals the opposite.
“We have fled violence and poverty from our home countries and now we are stuck here in Moria,” says Zabi, who lives in Germany dreams. He was glad that at least the children in the camp, many of them unaccompanied refugees, did not get much of international politics and Corona.
The 36-year-old Mehmed was also seven months ago with his The whole family arrived in Moria, his son is five and his daughter two years old. The Kurdish family comes from Afrin in northwestern Syria. They would have lived in Turkey for four years before venturing to Lesvos. Almost all of his relatives lived in Europe, Mehmed says on the phone. Two brothers, one in Denmark, the other in Bulgaria, sent him money that he himself wanted to go to the Netherlands.
Unlike Zabi, Mehmed does not speak polished English, but Turkish. As if the years as a refugee had made him cautious, he subconsciously formulated many of his statements as questions.
He, who was a trained electrician, sewed wedding dresses in Turkey, spent a year in prison – because he spoke Kurdish in public. In Moria he bought a few pallets for 50 euros, pushed them together and covered them with a tent. He now lives with his family.
Mehmed explains that the water in the camp only comes out of the taps by the hour, sometimes only late in the evening or early in the morning. Washing hands is difficult, not to mention showers. The toilets are in a miserable condition anyway. And without water … He bathes himself every two weeks. That must be enough.
On March 25, Mission Lifeline reports on Twitter, the water supply in the camp was temporarily stopped.
In the background there is a sea of tents
Excited, Mehmed also tells of the fire in Moria in mid-March. It was not the first in the camp. Mehmed sends videos via Whatsapp, thick black clouds of smoke over the camp, men film with their cell phones, the fire brigade makes its way through the crowd. Later it will be reported that the fire department had problems reaching the source of the fire quickly – the containers in the warehouse were too close together. It is said that a six-year-old girl died in the fire. Mehmed sends a picture: A charred small body, arms and knees drawn up, the skull split open. It may be the girl. Maybe not. This cannot be checked.
Mehmed can be seen in another photo. It is the selfie of a sturdily built man who looks into his cell phone with a serious face and narrowed eyes. In the background there is a sea of tents. He also sends a video of the mountains of rubbish. Blue and black sacks piled high by the roadside. A few meters further: Dixiklos.
Being powerless in the face of a situation – what men, women and children in Moria have been experiencing for a long time now. But the horror to which they and their families have faced seemed reasonably calculable. It is no longer at all.
“Sometimes I take a deep breath and say: God, if it is not in my hand, please help me,” says Zabi on the phone. And then he waits.