I was documenting the Souda refugee camp in Chios, Greece in January, when President Trump signed the Executive Order to close US borders to immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries. The conditions in the Souda refugee camp varies from constantly harsh to increasingly inhuman. Here’s what I saw.
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Freezing weather, freezing wind, freezing tents, freezing skin, freezing water.
Everyday tasks are made significantly harder due to the shortage of basic services and infrastructure in the camp. A woman washes clothing in the outdoor communal sink, scrubbing each piece with her bare hands in ice cold water.
The Souda camp housed approximately 1,200 refugees in January.
Zafar and Rehana, with their 6-year-old daughter, Selina, and 1-year-old son, Mohadi, left Afghanistan seeking safety.
Now they wait.
Mizar and Abella fled Syria with their 5 children and other relatives.
This winter, Chios island experienced its coldest winter in 40 years.
Refugees are living in communal buildings, plastic buildings or cloth tents. Greece’s winter is similar to the East Coast of the US, with freezing temperatures and biting wind blowing constantly from the Aegean Sea.
Typically arriving by dangerously (and often deadly) overcrowded boats, the refugees bring minimal personal belongings – often only the clothes they are wearing.
Donations of clothing and essentials are limited, especially given the extensive periods of time (months and now years) refugees are detained in the camp.
Their makeshift tent is erected against a boat on the shore and debris.
Amer, Asahid and Malil fled Palestine, Morocco and Algeria, respectively, and have been living in Chios for 2 months. Under the plastic United Nations tarp each man sleeps in a 3-season fair weather individual tent.
“I do not have a homeland.”
Amer uses Google Translate to communicate between Arabic and English. Amer worked in construction in Palestine. Now he wants to go to any country that is “safe”.
Dunya is 4 months pregnant and living in a plastic tent with her husband, Amen.
The tents have been “winterized” by placing plastic tarps over them. Rainwater seeps underneath the tents and soaks up into the blankets and other materials on the floor and remains continually wet in the cold weather.
In January the Souda refugee camp was reported to house approximately 1,200 refugees, in between an ancient barrier wall and a residential neighborhood.
In November 2016 the camp was attacked by fascists/populists hurling boulders down onto the tents and throwing Molotov cocktails, setting fire to tents and storage facilities holding basic human necessities such as clothing and blankets. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Greek government and local municipality have the major challenge of managing this and other camps across Greece.
Men seek refuge and warmth in the tunnels of an ancient fort alongside the camp.
Many young men fleeing the violence of their home countries are living in Souda refugee camp and others across Greece.
Donations are often inconsistent for the needs of the refugees.
A pair of fancy men’s dress shoes dries in the sun after being soaked by the rain during the previous days.
The graffiti says: WE ARE REFUGEES. NO ISIS
NO STAY HERE
PLEASE WE NEED FREEDOM
OPEN THE BORDER
The thin fence providing limited privacy for the women’s toilets is covered in messages for the outside world. Before being categorized a faceless, generic “refugee”, Abdrraezak was a software designer and computer programmer who speaks 5 languages and multiple computer languages. He is living in the Souda refugee camp, hoping to go to any country that is safe.
Refugees are permitted to move about the island but are prohibited from leaving to other destinations off the island.
Mohadi, a 1-year-old boy from Afghanistan, is now a refugee with his family.
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