Friday, 13 May 2016

Idomeni Diary: Day 5

Idomeni diary day 5

On the final day we met in the morning to discuss how we were going to organise the days activities. The medical volunteers had been joined by some new teams, more paramedics from Norway, medical students from Germany and the rest of the Jordanian-American medical relief team. There was a long discussion of how to divide up the work, and what was feasible given the logistical resources available. The group was split into three teams, one team would cover the Idomeni camp in the morning, while the other would cover Eko camp in the morning, and a third do Eko again in the evening.

We headed into Polykastro to drop off medications and other supplies the new volunteers had brought with them, and pick up supplies for the morning clinic. I joined the team heading up to Idomeni camp.

We set up clinic in the same spot, and were joined by a few of the translators from the previous day, and some new faces. Adel from the Eastern Ghouta came to help, as well as a young guy called Deyar, a teenage Kurd from Qamishli. Both were extremely helpful. Deyar was extremely proficient, switching easily between english, arabic and kurdish to make sure the patients fully understood what we asked, and the treatments that we were giving them.

The complaints were the same as before; chest infections, coughs, skin conditions, aching joints and backs. A young guy came up to us on crutches asking us to examine a surgical wound on his foot. He had broken it during his travels, and recently had it repaired in a Greek hospital, but was worried about it being infected in the camp. The dressing was dry and intact, and the visible part of his foot showed no signs of infection. I tried to allay his fears, that it appeared fine and taking the bandage off in the conditions of the camp would only increase the risk of infection. I advised him to try and put a shoe or at least a flip-flop on the foot to ensure it didn't come into contact with the ground, and just come back to us if it became swollen of the pain increased. I gave him some painkillers and sent him on his way.

The area we set up the clinic in was inhabited by a lot of Kurds from North Eastern Syria. Many tents were flying the Kurdish national flag, or the flag of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in advance of the Newroz celebrations that were to begin that night.

It was a busy clinic and we ran overtime. I had to leave early as I was travelling back to Thessaloniki that afternoon. I headed back to Hotel Polikastro, rested and packed. I had a final lunch at the cafe across from the hotel, where I spoke with George, a Palestinian refugee from Gaza who was trying to make the trip  to Europe and got stuck in Greece. He volunteered regularly with different projects at the camp as a translator. His story showed how the international border regime was driving everyone to take desperate measures.

George is a skilled worker, a computer programmer. He decided to leave Gaza after the Israeli assault in 2009 and had moved between countries, working and living everywhere he could using his Palestinian travel document; Egypt, Libya, Syria. As the situation worsened in each country he moved on, finally living in Malaysia for the last two year. His situation was precarious though, always dependent on temporary visa's and the whims of governments, with no opportunity to settle permanently or get citizenship. Wanting to secure a future for his children free from the threat of war, he decided to take the boats to Greece, and try and make his was to Germany to claim asylum. He made it to Athens, then the border was shut. He remarked morosely that he now felt like he was going to be stuck in Greece for some time.

I said my goodbyes then drove back to Thessaloniki. On the way I drove past Eko camp. In the daylight it was even more incongruous, white UNHCR tents sprawled across the grassy verge in the brilliant sunlight. Managed to take a wrong turn off the motorway and got stuck in the city for almost an hour, but got to the airport in time for my flight.

Sitting in the airport waiting to leave was deeply unsettling, knowing that I could just walk onto a plane and a few hours later be in London or anywhere I chose, while tens of thousands of people were held at the border in abominable conditions, unable to go anywhere. The international border regime and the nation states which police it, all have to go.

Morning briefing

Ze Germans

Flying the flags ahead of Newroz

Goodbye Hotel Polykastro

Eko Camp

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