Home / Reportage: Police station in Greece turned into a refugee camp
A port police station at the Greek island Leros has been hosting more that 15,000 refugees since the beginning of the year

Reportage: Police station in Greece turned into a refugee camp

New Times’ reporter visited the Greek port police station in Leros. Just that day 200 refugees arrived and settled in the station where they had to stay for at least 24 hours

By: Anna Franziska

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The blankets converging the asphalt and the wet cloths hanging on the fences almost makes the courtyard of the port police station looks cosy.
A couple of men are standing at a corner looking at a map of Europe.
“I want to go to Holland, Holland or Finland,” one man says.
”No, not Finland! That country is way to cold, they only have summer three months a year,” the other man replies before the scream of a baby near the corner prevents the guys to continue their conversation.

Translators in orange vests
The refugees at the port police station who speaks English well are being used as translators in the communication between the group of refugees and the volunteers. They are wearing neon orange vests to make them more visible in the crowd of nearly 200 refugees. The refugees in the camp all arrived today – one group in the morning and another in the afternoon.
“The translators helps us to inform the refugees about the situation – where they are, and that they have to stay at the police station for at least 24 hours in order to get their Greece registration,” explains the American volunteer Kalila Zunes-Wolfe who has been helping out in the camp for a couple of weeks.
The fact that most refugees at the station are wearing dirty clothes because of their long journeys makes the few people in orange vests stand out of the crowd even more.

Soccer in the courtyard
When boxes of food arrive at the port police station the barefoot boys who have been playing soccer until now immediately stops playing to run after food. The boys do gestures looking at Kalila Zunes-Wolfe sending a clear signal that they want some of the food.
Kalila Zunes-Wolfe calls for one of the translators, “could you please tell the boys that the food is only for the group who just arrived this afternoon?”.
One group only gets one meal for each person financed by the police, and this time it is the turn of the second group.
The Syrian translator explains to the boys that there is no food for them.
The boys look sad for a couple of seconds, hereafter they continue playing soccer in the courtyard of the station once again.

Volunteer, “I wish the refugees could have a bed to sleep in”
At the entrance of the port police station the volunteers has negotiated a compromise, so they can use some of the space as a base for organising the refugee camp. The available space has no electricity, and an almost constant line of questioning refugees blocks off the entrance, and makes the policemen irritated.
Kalila Zunes-Wolfe stands inside the entrance trying to understand what the letters say on the package of a Danish infant formula that has been donated for the camp.
“I really like being here at the camp, and I can feel like I am doing a difference for some people. Though, I wish the refugees could have a bed to sleep in and were treated with more respect”, she says.
She gives up on understanding the explanation on the package and starts pouring the infant formula in some baby bottles standing on the table in front of her.

At the port police station either policemen or volunteers have any idea for how long the situation will keep on being like this. As long as the numbers of refugees are increasing, volunteers will keep on helping and the courtyard will keep on being used as a refugee camp.

The number of refugees arriving at Leros has been steadily increasing during the last four years. Last year 3,000 refugees arrived at the island, this year more than 15,000 refugees has been doing the journey from the middle east to Leros by boat. The port police station has been used as a refugee camp for one year.

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