The picture below looks like a refugee camp… yet it’s not. The suffering that the people living here are subject to is much the same as the unjust conditions faced by those living in refugee camps throughout Greece. Limited access to running water, lack of access to healthcare, education and other basic services. Yet the people who live here are not refugees.
People have been living in this camp for around 5 years now, and it’s growing. The Greek financial crisis has had a devastating impact on Greek society, one that is largely simplified in European media, if covered at all. People have lost their entire homes as a result of perpetual debt and increasing interest rates combined with unprecedented levels of unemployment. Hospitals have become ghost towns as access to health care is cut and people denied basic access to medication.
It is essential the suffering of those living in Greece is considered with the passion and commitment seen in the response to the refugees stranded in Greece. If people are to live harmoniously side-by-side everyone must be treated as an equal, otherwise we will continue to foster a society of injustice, no matter how good our intentions.
A Greek nurse recently explained it to me on the island of Leros, where RefuAid works with the local hospital. “People mean well, but this is a complex situation, it doesn’t take long to understand it, but no one bothers to ask us” he went on to explain, “a month ago a large organisation shipped in propane heaters for the shelters in the refugee camp, it’s great, of course we want people to be warm, but my mother is suffering from cancer and we haven’t had money for heating in the last 18 months, do they know we are here too?”
By ignoring the suffering of the local and host communities NGOs, governments and actors are dangerously close to fostering segregation. It is essential we support people in need, regardless of legal definition, ethnicity and religion.
This is why RefuAid engage with the host community before initiating development projects, our programs support those in need, refugee and local alike. At a time when so much help is needed.
To read more about our projects, our approach and how we are supporting affected communities please visit: www.refuaid.org
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