Christmas on Lesbos

European Diary, 22.12.2020: In two days it will be Christmas. The “provisional” Kara Tepe camp on Lesvos, where the inmates of the burned-down Moria camp were forcibly relocated, is sinking into the mud. Then the water is pumped out. Then it sinks into the mud again. It gets cold. Instead of self-made wooden huts, which they could still build in Moria, 7500 people, 2500 of them children, now live in tents without heating. The inhabitants try to produce a little warmth with their gas camping stoves. More and more often they are treated with burns. It is dark in the tents. After three months, there is still no hot water. There are no sanitary facilities either. From 5 p.m. on, it is pitch dark in the camp because there are no working streetlights. There are also no schools or childcare facilities. The inmates are allowed to leave the camp once a week, for four hours, to go shopping.
The camp is located on a former military training area by the sea. The mud is full of lead-containing practice ammunition. Many children do not drink in the evening because they are afraid of having to go to the “toilet” at night. A toilet that does not exist. Many have massive sleep disorders, panic attacks and nightmares. A three-year-old girl has been raped in the camp. Some children commit suicide attempts. The foreign aid workers who look after refugees in the camp no longer know what arguments to use to talk the children out of committing suicide. Some of the helpers work for SOS Children’s Villages. The organization has been running a small child protection center on Lesbos near the new camp for years, which is actually supposed to be closed down at the end of the year. For months, they have been demanding to be allowed to set up at least one daycare center for some of the children in Kara Tepe instead.
For some time, the inmates of Kara Tepe went for a bath in the sea until it became too cold for that. Since people can no longer wash, scabies spread through the camp. Colds and pneumonia are also rampant. And more and more children, not least babies, are suffering from rat bites, Doctors Without Borders report. Things don’t look much better in the other camps on the islands. In the Vathy camp on Samos, 3700 people live in a camp set up for 600 people. Here, residents recently had to be vaccinated against tetanus because of the increasing risk of rat bites.

The Austrian government continues to prevent provinces and municipalities in Austria from accepting refugees from the Greek islands. Pressure is also growing in the ÖVP on the chancellor to finally abandon the populist blockade. But Kurz announced years ago that there would be “ugly pictures.” His policy relies on deterrence, child abuse, torture, bodily harm and deprivation of liberty. Why should he back away from this at the height of his success?

Hostages of this policy are also the Greens, who in parliament on Monday again practiced coalition discipline and together with turkish-blue-blue rejected an SPÖ motion for the admission of refugees. And yet there now seems to be a Turkish-blue double strategy. After all, there are only a few days left until Christmas. The feast of refugees and emergency shelters. Of innocent children. The warmth of hearts.

A PR advisor to the chancellor, Wolfgang Rosam, has long had the idea for an ingenious PR stunt against frostbite on the heart. Now they remembered the SOS Children’s Village, which has been begging for months to be allowed to do something for the children on Lesbos. After the unsuccessful appearance of bouncer Nehammer, who let himself be filmed wide-legged in front of a fat Russian airplane after the fire of Moria, the cargo of which in the meantime gathers in some Greek warehouse (“Help on the spot”) – now the chief diplomat of the empire has to move out.

A few days ago, SOS Children’s Villages was surprised by the joyful news from the Foreign Ministry. There are to be a few less ugly pictures for Christmas after all. And a day care for children in Kara Tepe. However, there is no approval from the Greek authorities yet, and also otherwise it is not really clear if and when the “safe place” for children – at least a few hours a day – will exist. But Foreign Minister Schallenberg let himself for it on the weekend already once in the news time in the picture celebration. A nice picture, the image of a self-satisfied man doing good. At least to himself and his chancellor.
Whether the diversionary maneuver will allow the children on Lesbos at least a small escape from misery remains to be seen. The director of SOS Children’s Villages would also prefer to bring them to Austria right away. But the search for shelter in this country is probably once again in vain.
Merry Christmas.

Translated with (free version)

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