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Migrants wait in bread lines, while tourists dine on grilled octopus in Greece

MORIA, Greece — As night closed in on the migrant camp, masses of people made their way to their makeshift tents, climbing hills of denuded olive trees, carrying dinner in plastic bags. Lila Ayobi showed her family what she had waited three hours in line to collect.

Ten cucumbers.

“Everything else was finished,” Ayobi, 39, told them. Her four children would have nothing else to eat until morning, when Ayobi would rise at 5 a.m. to wait in line again, this time for prepackaged croissants, one per person.

Waiting and disappointment are a central part of existence for the 38,000 people at Greece’s critically overcrowded Aegean island camps, where Europe’s migrant crisis is clearly far from over.

At the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, the largest of the island facilities, migrants wait in snaking lines for up to eight hours a day to get their meals. They wait for breakfast, come back to their shelters for an hour or two, and soon head off to wait for lunch.

“All day waiting,” Ayobi said. “In all the time we spend in line, we could learn a new language.”

They wait because this camp has mushroomed in size, growing seven times more crowded than its capacity, a shantytown on a vacation island never intended for such emergencies.

They wait because the Greek government and local authorities are at odds about what to do with them, and because a closed-off Europe has not offered another place to put them, even as rights groups decry the camps as an emblem of the continent’s failures.

Conditions at the island camps have never been worse. Children shiver through the nights, bundled in wet blankets that never fully dry. There are protests, scabies outbreaks and fatal stabbings in middle-of-the-night fights. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, has called the situation “explosive,” noting a “desperate lack of medical care and sanitation” — and the hours-long lines.

An Afghan couple prepare food outside their tent.

Many meals come in plastic packaging and result in mountains of garbage among the tents. (Photos by Giorgos Moutafis for The Washington Post)

Many people here fled war and other desperate environments, and they risked their lives to cross the Aegean Sea in flimsy rafts. They are grateful to have made it this far. But they describe feeling humiliated and dismayed, sensing that even in the food there is a message about the resources Europe is willing to spend on new arrivals: not much at all.

A nutritionist told The Washington Post that the meals appear to fall below minimum calorie requirements. One migrant said the food was worse than at her former workplace, an Afghan prison.

“We are living like animals. It’s not a life,” said Zekria Farzad, 40, who had been a journalist in Afghanistan, which is where most of the migrants at Moria come from. “Actually, we are struggling to be alive.”

Yet beyond the camp, closer to the water, locals and tourists are eating well. Lesbos’s tavernas serve octopus, grilled squid, feta, vegetables dressed with lemon and olive oil.

That jarring juxtaposition is part of what makes the camp “one of the worst places I’ve seen on earth,” said Marco Sandrone, the Lesbos field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders.

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“You can get a beer at the port, and then with 10 minutes’ drive you see an open-air prison,” said Sandrone, whose previous postings included Congo, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Haiti. “There is no transition here between paradise and hell.”

Greece migrant camps continue to grow in size, as conditions get worse

Waiting for their future to be determined

How a small resort island came to host so many asylum seekers — and serve 57,000 daily, low-cost meals, provided in large part by a former wedding caterer — is a story that reflects Europe’s gridlocked immigration politics.

Opened five years ago at the beginning of a massive spike in migration to Europe, the Moria camp was supposed to be a short-term holding center for asylum seekers waiting to be transferred to the Greek mainland and elsewhere on the continent. Instead, it has become a bottleneck, with many people staying in Moria for a year or longer.

(Chiqui Esteban)

The overall number of migrants reaching Europe has plummeted from the highs of 2015 and 2016, but with no agreement on where to send them, even slight upticks in people crossing the Aegean Sea explode into emergencies in Lesbos.

A year ago, the camp held 4,900 people. Even then it was notorious for its conditions. Now, after a year of increased crossings from Turkey, the camp holds 19,400.

It has burst well outside its razor-wire fenced barriers, with most migrants living in tents on the surrounding hillside. They have no electricity, no plumbing, no way to cook except for fire.

They descend into the official camp for meals, coming through the main entrance or through holes in the fencing, and they crowd into spaces that camp administrators describe as dangerously tight. Administrators say fights and scuffles routinely break out during the wait.

A 20-year-old man from Yemen died last month after being stabbed in an altercation, the second stabbing fatality here in 2020.

“Almost we cannot control it,” Dmitris Vafeas, a Greek bureaucrat who is the camp’s acting director, said in an interview. “It’s an everyday struggle. We have problems of overpopulation here.”

Waiting for food, trying to survive

Most days at Moria, the food lines have already grown big by the time the main catering company’s food trucks arrive through the camp gates. The company, Elaitis, primarily did weddings until a few years ago. Now the Greek army pays Elaitis a daily rate of 5.01 euros per person, an amount that includes transportation and labor, to provide the food.

During several days at the camp last month, The Washington Post monitored what was served, much of which was marked with nutritional information. Athens-based nutritionist Ioanna Hassapi, who reviewed the food at The Post’s request, said the meals most days appeared to fall short of adult and teenage caloric needs — and those needs grow when people are sleeping outdoors and are chronically sick.

“If you eat this food, you won’t recover as easily,” Hassapi said. “It affects your immune system, your growth.”

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Every breakfast consists of a packaged croissant. Every dinner consists of a flatbread, a boiled egg and a cigar-sized spinach pastry — if you are far enough ahead in line. Only the lunch rotates: sometimes lentils and rice, sometimes beans, sometimes rice with meat. The food isn’t supposed to run out; occasionally, it does. The milk served to children resembles whitish water. Some days, there are tomatoes or cucumbers with dinner, other days not.

Migrants speak of getting stale bread and barely cooked rice, of losing weight, of new mothers eating so poorly that they stop lactating. While there has not been widespread malnutrition, a baby died of severe dehydration in the fall.

A child holds a croissant, the typical breakfast at the Moria migrant camp.

Dinner consists of a hard-boiled egg, a flatbread and a prepackaged spinach pastry, if food hasn’t run out.

Lentils with rice is one of the rotating meals for lunch. (Photos by Giorgos Moutafis for The Washington Post)

Some local officials have started to question whether Greece is failing to provide migrants the level of food it has paid for.

Stratis Balaskas, a city councilor who regularly visits Moria, said food quality has gone down as the camp has multiplied in size. Last month, several local officials, including Balaskas, brought a day’s worth of camp food to the island’s top prosecutor and asked her to open an investigation into whether the government and the food vendors are fulfilling their obligations.

“The cost of what they’re putting together now is next to nothing,” Balaskas said.

Greek prosecutors by rule do not comment to the public or the press on potential cases.

Greece’s defense ministry, which is in charge of monitoring the food at the camp, declined to comment for this story, as did the country’s migration ministry, which has recently vowed to lower the number of arrivals by strengthening border protection and increasing deportations to Turkey.

In an interview, Elaitis’s head of sales, Kostas Mavroudis, said his company was living up to the contract and spending about 4.50 euros, or $4.90, daily per migrant.

But he added that Elaitis has been stretched to keep up with the camp’s growth. The company expanded from 21 employees to 44, he said. It went from two delivery trucks to six. It created a five-person overnight shift. With that not being enough, it has also subcontracted to two companies in Athens, which now produce around 40 percent of the food and send it twice a week, frozen, by boat, he said.

Mavroudis defended the food’s quality. But the people who eat it say it has no flavor, that the colors range from brown to light brown, as if trying to make them nostalgic for what they had in the countries they fled.

“When you are desperate, you’d eat even grass,” said Ahmad Wait Anwary, 27, who had been a security guard in Afghanistan. “Unfortunately, this is the way it is here.”

Ahmad Wait Anwary, a former security guard from Afghanistan, sleeps in a shelter constructed out of cardboard. (Giorgos Moutafis for The Washington Post)

Stuck waiting

Greece has talked about closing the camps and building more restrictive detention centers in their place. But local authorities have orchestrated protests. They vehemently oppose the notion of permanent centers, and they are deeply skeptical that the government can build anything large enough to accommodate the asylum seekers already in the camps.

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Even if the plan goes forward, it is unclear what will happen to the overflow population.

The hillsides surrounding Moria have been picked bare by migrants foraging for additional food. Some families have built brick ovens inside their tents. The ovens are safety hazards, but they make it possible to bake bread. There is an Aldi supermarket on the island where people can get flour. There are also makeshift stands inside the camp, where people try to resell grocery items they bought in bulk. But those options are mostly for people who have been here several months, after a small monthly stipend from the United Nations has kicked in. And that stipend does not cover all they would need to eat in a month.

So, they still walk through the camp gates before mealtimes to wait.

One day last month, on a day like many others, they walked past a guard who was warning that the lines would be long, and then they made their way past 75 people who had just arrived by boat that morning and were waiting to be registered, past 100 people waiting to lodge applications for a transfer to the mainland, past 20 people in line at the asylum office, past 300 people waiting for U.N.-distributed blankets and toothbrushes.

Then they arrived at the food line. It was only beginning to form, 2½ hours before the first meals would be served. Women, who have their own line, huddled near a fence, waiting for the gates to open to a covered facility, where they would wait some more. Soon, thousands would be there, people who are less likely to get what would be served that day. But for now, it was just 30 people, holding children, wearing shower sandals or old sneakers, talking to one another.

A nutritionist in Athens said the camp meals most days appeared to fall short of adult and teenage caloric needs — and those needs grow when people are sleeping outdoors and are chronically sick. (Giorgos Moutafis for The Washington Post)

Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report. Story and video by Chico Harlan. Photos by Giorgos Moutafis. Story editing by Marisa Bellack. Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Design and development by Allison Mann. Copy editing by Paola Ruano. Video editing by Alexa Juliana Ard. Graphic by Chiqui Esteban

Source : washingtonpost.com

 

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Displaced Yemen children at risk of the deadly impacts of severe food insecurity  

Migrants near Budapest

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Malnutrition analysis released today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners is extremely concerning. With limited access to food, humanitarian services and health care, displaced children in Yemen are at risk of the deadly impacts of severe food insecurity.

Around 26 per cent of the more than 156,000 people newly displaced this year, in the areas where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has access, cited food as their main need. This is the second most cited need after shelter and housing, which 65 per cent of people reported as their main need. In areas where there are higher levels of displacement, like Al Hudaydah, Taizz, Al Dhale’e and Marib, higher levels of food needs have also been reported.

“Displaced Yemenis leave their homes with nothing and often find themselves seeking safety in locations where there are no job opportunities and barely enough services, including health care,” said Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Chief of Mission for Yemen.

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“This can leave vulnerable people without enough food to feed their families. Given that UN partners are reporting that acute malnutrition rates among children under five are the highest ever recorded in parts of Yemen, we are extremely worried about children in displaced families.”

The situation in Marib is particularly concerning given that an escalation in hostilities has displaced over 90,000 people to the city and caused a drastic shortage of services. Displaced people in Marib report food to be one of their most urgent needs. Of the displacement sites assessed by IOM in October, some reported that food shortages were a major concern for approximately 50 per cent of their residents.

In response to food insecurity, the emergency aid kits distributed under the Rapid Response Mechanism by IOM to newly displaced families include emergency food rations. IOM also carries out livelihood support activities for displaced communities to help them generate income. Most recently the Organization supported displaced women in making face masks which help their community combat the spread of COVID-19.

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IOM also operates a health centre in Al Jufainah Camp, Yemen’s largest displacement site, and multiple mobile health clinics. In addition to providing primary health care services to over 55 per cent of displaced people in Marib, IOM’s mobile health clinics provide community level access to malnutrition screening for children under the age of five and referral for treatment, in coordination with UNICEF. Given the high demand for such nutritional support, early intervention is vital to reducing avoidable morbidity and mortality among displaced children.

Support Voice for African Migrants


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For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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Nigerians in Spain say no to genocide

Nigerians resident in Spain have kicked against bad governance and brutalitalisation of innocent citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.

They are in solidarity with the #Endsars protesters.

The #Endsars protest  started by young Nigerians to say no to brutality, impunity and gruesome killings in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the government in the country saw security operatives using live bullets on the protesters last week, October 21, 2020.

In a statement signed by Afolabi Oloko, the Nigerians in Spain said: “In every part  of the world, including Nigeria, we believe protesting is a fundamental right of all citizenry that we can exercise whenever we deem it fit as long as it is civil and devoid of violence but such is not the case in Nigeria where the young future of the country are murdered by their very own government just because they made demands that there must be a reform to the notorious Police department and that the country be reformed in general. Have they asked for too much from a responsible and responsive government?

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“It is so disheartening that after Ten days that the youth refused to back down they resorted to killing, maiming of their own future generations just because they asked and begged for good governance and good policing. It’s a shame that young people are being killed all around the cities of Nigeria from Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo , Benin, Porthacort just to mention a few. It was horrendous seeing over seventy people being murdered at night while still protesting unarmed peacefully in Lekki area of Lagos state. They organised by switching off the street light while they carried out their evil deed against defenceless young people of the country and also took away the CCTV. The commander-in-chief of the Armed forces in person of President Muhamodu Buhari must be tried at the International court for genocide against it’s own people.

“We the compatriots far away in Spain are with our young brothers and sister on the streets saying no to bad governance as you’re in our hearts and prayers. We support you in the just cause you’re are fighting. Fighting for one’s future should not be seen as an affront to the authorities, rather they should look inward and realise that the system is rotten and should be cleansed but not killing innocent young men on the streets with Army being deployed to take lives of vibrant and resourceful, frustrated and change hungry citizens.
“Today, we came out in multitude in solidarity with our compatriots back home to say #ENDSARS! #ENDBADGOVERNANCE #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDCORUPTION #ENDTHEGENOCIDE”

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ILO, IOM sign agreement to strengthen collaboration on migration governance

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today signed an Agreement to create a framework for cooperation and collaboration to enhance the benefits of migration for all.

The framework includes joint support for improved migration governance, capacity building and policy coherence at national, regional and global levels. Other areas of work may also be developed.

The Agreement was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, and António Vitorino, the IOM Director-General, on Friday at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Ryder said, “this Agreement seals an important alliance between our two organizations. Together, we will be stronger and more effective in both fulfilling our individual mandates and in collaborating on areas that are crucial for reshaping the world of work so that it is more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a brutal impact on economies and societies. Vulnerable groups, particularly migrant workers and their families, are being disproportionately hit. There could be no better time to reinforce our partnership and combine our strengths, so that we can help countries and our constituents build back for a better future.”

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DG Vitorino said, “the agreement that we are signing today will help us further solidify our collaboration at the time when joint solutions are so much needed, with a pandemic that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. As we move towards post-pandemic recovery, we fully embrace the call to build a better world together, tapping into the added value of each partner. With ILO, we have much to co-create and we look forward to future cooperation within the broader UN family, with our partner governments, private sector and civil society.”

The new ILO-IOM Agreement builds on the agencies’ comparative advantages, expertise, and respective constituencies. By encouraging joint initiatives, the Agreement aims to strengthen international migration governance and boost cooperation, capacity building and joint advocacy to promote migrants’ rights and decent work opportunities.

By encouraging social dialogue, it will allow workers` and employers` organizations – who sit equally with governments in the ILO’s tripartite membership structure – to contribute to policy discussions.

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A workplan will be developed in the next six months to push forward the collaboration at global, regional and country levels and, more importantly, facilitate the implementation of the Agreement in the field, where both agencies are working directly with affected populations.

It will seek to enhance the agencies joint contribution to their member states, UN country teams, and societies to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agreement will also allow the ILO and IOM to strengthen support for their respective constituencies in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), and contribute to other global and regional migration policy fora and debates.

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