The catastrophe was expected. When the rains first fell on October 8, the new Kara Tepe camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was flooded. More than 600 people had to be evacuated. In this new camp, without water, sanitation, drainage, battered by rain and wind, the life of the 8,500 asylum seekers – 2,500 have been transferred to the mainland in recent weeks – is worse than that of Moria completely devastated by fire a month ago.
→ LARGE FORMAT. Lesbos: after Moria’s hell, Kara Tepe’s nightmare
Moria, however, was known worldwide as hell. In this immense jungle, many shattered minds had not resisted the harshness of existence and the endless wait for asylum procedures. These hostile lands were fertile ground for violence. But life had also gained the upper hand, with its early fruit stalls, its bread ovens dug in the ground, its hairdressers, its self-managed schools and all its activities.
The energy, endurance, resourcefulness and solidarity of these people command respect. Fatemeh and Farhad, on site, Rouddy and Michel, now settled in Mytilene, the largest town on the island, are a few examples.
► Rouddy, the energy of music
“Refugee, it’s a label, like a tampon that is printed all over your body, but I don’t feel like a refugee inside. ” Rouddy releases an extraordinary energy. “We’re going to get Lesbos moving! “, ignites the former Congolese computer scientist. Every Monday evening, a few musicians come to play on the main square of Mytilene. They are members of RADMusic – for Refugee African Dance -, the group he created last winter, quickly joined by Koko, a compatriot who has toured concerts and festivals throughout Africa.
Congolese, Cameroonians, Iranians, Greeks, Germans, etc., have joined RADMusic. After a special coronavirus song, One meter away, the group recorded Freedom – words of Rouddy – thanks to the reception of the Greek association Siniparxi (“coexistence”).
“People are going mad in the camp, over-t-yl. Music reconstructs, it connects people and gives joy. “ She rebuilds him first and foremost. He was refused asylum. He appealed the decision, still pending.
“I was very sick, MSF took care of me, but I just have to think about my family one night and I have a relapse. ” His father, an opponent of Congolese President Kabila, in power from 2001 to 2019, was assassinated. “My family has been destroyed. “ His mother left for the border with Angola. He, the eldest, fled “To seek peace and security”.
For three years he has been in Greece, Rouddy has traveled the country with documents that allow him to move. He taught computer science in Athens for nine months. “In Greece, there is no work, only NGOs can hire us. “ He returned to Lesbos as a Lingala translator for MSF. “People here spat on me. But I also met some good people. “
► Farhad and his 800 kites
« Lhe children cannot even see me anymore, they are not allowed to come to my tent. “ Farhad is heavy-hearted. In the new military camp of Kara Tepe, the lone men were grouped together in tents of one hundred bunk beds surrounded by barbed wire. “We are separated from families; Afghan families on one side, African families on the other, other nationalities elsewhere; and us, the lonely men; it is not good to separate nationalities ”, sighs this Afghan man in his thirties.
The sight of thousands of children – there were more than 3,000 under the age of 12 in the camp before the fire – playing with trash cans had been unbearable to him when he arrived in Lesvos thirteen months ago. “I wanted to help them, to give them hope, so I cut bamboo and made kites with plastic bags. ” Success assured.
→ DEBATE. Migrants: Europe seeks common ground on asylum
Romain, a French volunteer, then comes to his aid to provide him with equipment. The kite activity is gaining momentum quickly. Workshops are organized in the two self-managed schools that existed in the camp, Tolou (“Sunrise”) and Wave of Hope (“wave of hope”). “For the Persian New Year, last March 21, with a thousand children we made 500 kites that flew at the same time! “
Second salvo on August 29, when 300 new kites fly in the sky of Moria and echo the hundred kites launched on the Breton beach of Douarnenez, in support of the children of the camp. Everything was destroyed by the fire. “We no longer have a school, no more equipment. We are waiting for an authorization to have a place to invite the children, but everything is prohibited because of the coronavirus. ” Tormented, Farhad is still awaiting his interview, which has been postponed several times, for his asylum application.
► Fatemeh, school dreams
Boxes of burnt pencils. The carcasses of chairs in bulk. A bed of molten glass jars. The charred remains of a tube of paint. A pile of books reduced to ashes. This charred backdrop is all that remains of the Wave of Hope self-administered school in Camp Moria. “All the guitars burned down. Nothing is left. It’s like my own house is gone. “
Fatemeh spent his days there. “I felt at home. ” The 18-year-old Afghan girl did everything there. She took care of the reception, cleaning, took German lessons, guitar and painting and sometimes even taught rudiments of English to replace a teacher. “Moria, it was not hell as they say, life was really very difficult, but we had our activities, our distractions. In the new camp, we have nothing left. You know, we’re not doing well at all. “
→ READ. Christian organizations call on EU for solidarity with migrants
Administrative aberration, Fatemeh had, alone, the green light to be transferred to Athens on September 29, after sixteen months spent in Lesbos. But not his mother or his little brother, who nevertheless also obtained asylum (his father is deceased). As for his 22-year-old big brother, he is the subject of a separate procedure as an adult and his case remains pending. Fatemeh suddenly gave up on leaving …
In Moria, she wants to run a new school with other girls. “I love learning so much! I have never been to school. I grew up in Iran where Afghan refugees did not go to school, then when we went to Turkey we were expelled to Afghanistan where I could not go to school either. I have spotted two places in the camp where we could recreate a school, but we need permission. “
► Michel, the African “chef”
“I was well in my country. I had a plot, a car, a salary. I had a good life. “ If he could, Michel would go back to “Congo Kinshasa” (DR-Congo), where he had to abandon his wife and children. “I will find them one day”, he wants to believe.
Michel is the assumed name of this Congolese giant who fears for his life. “I’m afraid of being sued. Poor migrants could be bought for 500 € to kill people. In the Moria camp, there was a lot of violence. At night we couldn’t sleep because of the fights. Men have died for a phone or something. “
In his country, this television journalist was kidnapped and assaulted for having witnessed scenes he should not have seen. His parents were murdered by a militia. “I have evidence, scars, photos. “ On August 26, 2020, Greece granted him refugee status after eight months in Lesbos. But in the process, she removed the financial aid from him, under a new law. And she has not yet granted him freedom of movement. “I am waiting for permission to leave the island. I will have to wait months more, penniless, to obtain identity documents to leave the country. “
In the meantime, many Africans come to greet him. It is because with his stature, his authority and his charisma, Michel has established himself as a leader. “We Africans are suffering a lot, we need help. So I went to church, knocked on NGO doors. I had this courage, it is not easy. ” Since then, he is the person of trust who acts as a link between the NGOs and the African minority, who distributes food and basic necessities in the camp.
Landmarks: The Lesbos camp
In 2015, 500,000 migrants landed on Lesbos. In 2020 (until September 20), there were 4,337 new arrivals.
End 2019, le camp de Moria had more than 25,000 people.
Before the camp fire, September 9 and 10, 2020, there were 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Lesbos, including more than 11,700 in the camp.
→ MAINTENANCE. Fr Maurice Joyeux: “We had to expect the Lesbos camp to end in flames”
Since then, 406 unaccompanied minors have been transferred to Thessaloniki and must be hosted by different states of the European Union.
About 1,400 refugees were also transferred to the mainland September 28 and October 1. Germany has committed to welcoming 1,500, France 500.