The camp in Alexandria opened on 14 April 2016. According to the UNHCR, around 700 people currently stay in Alexandreia, the large majority coming from Syria. The camp is managed by the Hellenic army, and is a formerly military site surrounded by big stone walls and barbed wire fence. The buildings in the camp look like old dilapidated military barracks, but they are out of use. Nobody is accommodated in buildings, all refugees in the camp sleep in one of the 140 tents standing on asphalted ground. No psychosocial services are available.
Inadequate sanitary facilities
The camp has only 32 toilets, implying that more than 20 people share one toilet. The toilets are dirty and cleaned only once a day. The people repeatedly tried to talk to the authorities about the toilets. But, as R. explained to Moving Europe, “this police man over there, he talked to us like animals” – and the toilets continue to be dirty. The public washing facility with cold water is outside in the middle of the camp. R., a woman from Syria, told us that she tries to wash herself and her son inside the tents. After numerous complaints, the authorities promised to install proper showers in one of the unused hangars, but nothing has happened so far, and it is unclear how the dilapidated building can quickly be transformed into a functioning washing facility. “The Greek government does not have anything to give to us”, and the resources of the UNHCR are equally insufficient, R. emphasized.
Children cannot be children
Almost half of the inhabitants of the camp are children, waiting in the camp instead of taking up educational opportunities. Moreover, there are no secure possibilities for children to play, instead there are sharp objects lying around on the gravel and there is a big puddle of dirty water next to the tents. A young boy was bitten by a scorpion and had to be taken to the hospital.
Family reunification, relocation and asylum services via Skype: “We try every day, but we do not get an answer”
The Skype service for applying for family reunification, relocation or asylum raises many hopes but continues to be dysfunctional. Moving Europe discussed the situation with a Syrian family, who arrived on the Greek islands from Turkey in late February, and were told on the bus towards mainland Greece that the restrictions at the Greek-Macedonian border are increasing. After several harsh weeks in Idomeni, they came to Alexandria. After uncountable unsuccessful calls to the asylum and relocation service on Skype, the family got an answer only once. However, the phone call only lasted 1:48 minutes, and they were told to turn on the camera and to call again on Wednesday, without having had their names registered.
Problems with relocation and family reunification are not isolated incidents, but systematic: A father who is already in Germany was visiting his wife and children in Alexandria, because they cannot travel on to join him. A Syrian mother is stuck in Alexandria, while her ten year old son is already in Germany with his uncle, and she does not know if it will be possible for her to follow him. A family who had an Aufenthalstitel in Germany, but returned to Syria to visit sick relatives, is prevented from returning to Germany. “We want to come back to Germany on the legal route, but we do not get a chance”, Z. said. Everybody is waiting for the situation to change. R. explained: “I am 29 years old. In Syria I studied law and I had a live. I want to do something useful for the society and go on with my live.” Her husband, who worked as an engineer in Syria, said nearly the same: “It´s a big loss of human resources, because we would really like to work and take care of ourselves. The waiting here has no sense.”
Solidarity and support
The camp lies next to the city of Alexandreia, and despite the circumstances there are nice encounters between those who recently arrived and those who have been living in the area for a longer time. A festival is being organized from 3-5 May, with cooking of Syrian and Greek food and children plays.