Despite a recent media pick-up concerning conditions on Lesvos, specifically in Moria Camp, the situation experienced by the thousands living in Vial Refugee Camp remains forgotten.
I’ve been speaking out over the past months about the failures of First Reception, Vial’s managing authority and a Greek governmental agency, that continues to demonstrate its life-threatening incompetency to provide a protected space for asylum-seekers arriving on European soil.
These Visions for Vial stem from the dark humour of one disappointed reader who responded negatively to my critical stance towards Vial Camp. He suggested that I focus on my constructive rather than critical commentary. He even quoted Martin Luther King: “I have a dream”.
But as the months roll on, as winter temperatures and weather systems hit the island, visions turn into hash realities. Nevertheless, here's my proposed Vision for Vial.
A Sheltered Place for Winter
In this spotlight on the state of shelter and protection in Vial, I wish to point out the utter lack of suitable accommodation structures made available to new and long-term residents of the camp. This shortfall is leaving hundreds to endure harsh oncoming rains, winds and falling temperatures without a solid wall between them and the freezing conditions.
You have no excuse. This is the third winter that Chios has hosted high numbers of asylum-seekers; you’ve managed to centralise everyone into one despicable, far-flung camp, but now, out of the public eye, you seem to have relinquished all human care and due diligence.
The failure of effective winterisation was unfortunate and deadly in 2016; in 2017 it was unacceptable; now we find ourselves on the threshold of 2018’s biting winter, and the situation has, if anything, deteriorated. It is one of Europe's most underreported scandals.
There is a disgusting lack of concern for human life being displayed here; a startling absence of solidarity.
I wish I could project a rosy vision for the coming months, but other rumours leave me to worry all the more: it has been reported that from the end of October, around 60 of First Receptions’s staff contracts finish, meaning over the Winter period - the most essential period for the managing authority to ensure as a minimum the protection of life itself - you will be understaffed, leading to cut-backs in your already under-equipped and struggling services.
Over the past fortnight, the first glimpse of winter has reached the camp. I’m sharing these photos and videos to give a clear impression of what’s coming.
The situation is clear:
Hundreds are living in tents: tents provided in most cases by voluntary NGOs since your provision of non food items is inadequate.
Hundreds suffer from illnesses that can’t be treated due to lack of staffing at the medical facilities (there are similar rumours of further staffing shortages at KELPNO over winter too).
A recent €20,000 fine handed to the Migration Ministry for failure to improve sewerage and sanitation speaks for shortcoming in these basic services.
If you need a Vision for Vial, let this be your guiding principle: providing a sheltered place for winter.