Lagkadikia camp was opened in Northern Greece in the end of April, making it one of the most recent ad hoc refugee camps installed in Greece. The camp is run jointly by the Greek Ministry of Migration and UNHCR. It is located on a former military site near the small rural village of Lagkadikia. According to UNHCR, over 700 people are already staying within the enfenced area.
“Full dignity” for the people convinced to move to the camp, or false promises?
The majority of the people who are now in Lagkadikia were formerly staying in the self-organised camps in Idomeni and Eko gas station. UNHCR employees approached many people in Idomeni and promised that Lagkadikia will be a significantly better place for them to stay. According to the people who moved to Lagkadikia, among the multiple promises were access to family reunification, relocation and the Greek asylum service within 2 weeks, as well as improved living conditions. One family who moved to Lagkadikia told Moving Europe that a UNHCR translator convinced them to go to this camp by saying: “You will regret it if you do not take this chance, you will be very grateful once you reach Germany.” Simultaneously, the UNHCR produced a promotional video advertising Lagkadikia camp, describing it as giving “full dignity” to the people who came from Idomeni (for full video, see bottom of the page). However, the reality of Lagkadikia camp does not match the expectations raised. Moving Europe discussed the situation with several families in Lagkadikia, who described how the promises were broken and how disappointed they are.
Table: Difference between the official promises and the reality at Lagkadikia camp
The comparison is based on the testimony of approximately 20 people from Aleppo and Damascus, who came to Lagkadikia between one or two weeks ago due to the promises made by the authorities.
|Promised by UNHCR
||Situation on the ground|
|1 tent per family||6 persons per tent, even if they are not from the same family, with compartments only separated by a thin curtain|
|1 bed per person||Only 2 narrow beds per tent|
|Quick registration for asylum, family reunification and relocation, as well as legal advice||No registration in the camp, instead the advice to “try skype”|
|Housing soon in buildings||Everybody accommodated in tents|
|Kitchen for cocking||No kitchen, cooking prohibited|
|Free Wifi||Wifi too weak to make Skype calls|
“This is not life. All people here are tired and exhausted:”
Frustration and anger in the camp
Generally speaking, many people were very angry and some people insisted that they will call the UNHCR “only liars” in the future. The people described that when they approach the authorities in Lagkadikia to ask about the promised legal advice and registration procedures, the answer is that there is no capacity. The majority of the people who spoke to Moving Europe have family in Germany, but little or no information on how to reunite with their closest relatives. Instead of the promised better living conditions, people are struggling with numerous difficulties: “I cannot sleep at night because the baby of the family on the other half of the tent is crying“, M. described. A man who participated in the violently repressed protests in Idomeni in April and who was injured, described the lack of adequate medical assistance. A family whose member died from a stroke was promised a proper funeral, and told that they would get support in Lagkadikia camp, but according to them so far nobody was interested in helping them.
Not better than Idomeni
Many people insisted that this camp is worse than Idomeni. R. from Syria stated: “Some people are already going back to Idomeni, and we are also thinking about going back to Idomeni very soon.” L. explained one of the reasons why she wants to leave this camp: “At least in Idomeni there were many NGOs providing food, there was a bit of a choice, but this is not possible here.” However, the uncertainty about the future is a more pressing concern than the living conditions during transit. “I fled Syria for my children to have a future. Now my son is learning how to beg instead of going to school.”, B. lamented.
Promotional Video made by UNHCR