Catalan volunteers to bring dignity to Vasilika refugee camp in Greece
Two months after the Greek Police evicted the self-managed refugee camp at Eko Station, which hosted 1,800 people at a motorway petrol station 20 kilometres south of Idomeni, a group of Catalan volunteers aim to reproduce the projects which were carried out there in Vasilika, a military-run refugee camp located in an old warehouse in Central Macedonia, Greece. Most of the people settled in Eko Station, mainly Syrians and Iraqis, were moved to Vasilika, a camp which doesn’t comply with the minimum hygienic, sanitary and alimentary conditions. In order to bring dignity to this facility the volunteers have started to set up a 4,000-square-metre space which will host a school, a communal kitchen, a library and several communal areas to host workshops and activities for people of all ages. The initiative is expected to serve the 1,200 people currently living in Vasilika.
Barcelona (CNA).- The so-called ‘Eko Station’, evicted in June by the Greek police, was much more than a refugee camp. It was a self-managed project which aimed to turn this site, which hosted nearly 1,800 people at a motorway petrol station 20 kilometres south of Idomeni, into a temporary home. However, after the eviction, most of its residents were moved to Vasilika, a military-run refugee camp located in an old warehouse which doesn’t comply with the minimum hygienic, sanitary and alimentary conditions. To bring dignity to this space and reproduce Eko Station’s spirit, a group of Catalan volunteers have started to set up the 4,000-square-metre space next to this warehouse. The initiative aims to serve the 1,200 people currently living in Vasilika and foresees the construction of a school, a communal kitchen, a library and several communal areas to host workshops and activities for people of all ages.
“We base our project on the refugees’ real needs”, Eko Project volunteer, Clara Sánchez told the CNA. According to Sánchez, one of the project’s main goals is to “promote the refugees’ direct participation” and reinforce the “collective empowerment of this community”. “Amongst them there are teachers, builders, cooks and other professional profiles who are able to carry out the different tasks required, so there is no need to bring anyone from Europe to do them”, stated Sánchez.
The project is funded by donations, most of them from Catalan organisations, and its success lies in the cooperation between the volunteers, about ten in number, and the refugees.
The space which is currently being set up is not in the camp itself but in a 4,000-square-metre space next to Vasilika’s old warehouse. The aim is to make this temporary settlement as comfortable as possible. “The volunteers in Vasilika are the same people who worked in Eko Station and their work there was just perfect”, explains Hassan Alhomse, a Syrian refugee currently in the Vasilika camp. He especially praised the school they set up in Eko Station. “Thanks to the school, many of the children here now speak English”, he stated.
The Eko Project’s volunteers have repeatedly criticised the way both the EU and the Greek government have tackled the refugee crisis so far and aim to report the inhumane conditions of camps such as Vasilika. The tents are located inside an old warehouse, without a ventilation system and whose temperature may rise to 40 degrees. Moreover, the toilets don’t have an appropriate sewer system, there is no medical care and the closest village is 6 kilometres away from the camp, which makes it more difficult to have access to supermarkets, pharmacies, reception of money transfers and other services.
“We have other projects but the Greek government doesn’t allow the volunteers to go inside the camps”, Alhomse lamented. “We have been here in Vasilika for two months and we haven’t had anything until now”, he stated. “They have promised that they will build a school, a kitchen and other services but nothing has happened”, pointed out Alhomse. Therefore, they welcome the volunteers’ initiative and see it as a motivation for them to move forward. “We can’t stay in our tents and wait for the borders to be opened”, he concluded.