Self-Organization in Moria

Since 2016, many refugees are forced to stay in Moria in order to wait for their asylum decisions for months, sometimes for years. With time, people opened shops on the main roads of the camps: You can find people selling vegetables and fruits, milk, rice, bread, snacks, meat, as well as bikes, electronic devices or wood, sheet metal and other materials to build small huts. There are even people offering all kinds of authentic food. You can find bakeries in Moria, or hairdressers and barber shops. The longer refugees are forced to wait in the camp, the more the self-organized infrastructure grows. For instance, people constructed mosques in the camp, as well as churches and other worshipping places.

© Photos: Toni Petraschk / Mare Liberum

Omid [third photo, on the left], a pharmacist from Afghanistan, is part of the Corona Awareness Team. Within weeks they informed residents of Moria about the new virus and set up structures to cope with a possible outbreak inside the refugee camp: “The only request all the people here have is that they want to move from here to a good and safe place – to ‘a little bit European place’. Nothing here is European but we are in Europe. No one wants to stay here but people are forced to stay and they don’t know for how long. The one thing they know is that 'we are going to be here for a while'. So, they should have the chance to build something for themselves, organize themselves. To be alive, to survive.”

“The people here they make these tents, these structures, these mosques, these shops, these bakeries, all of this they made it by themselves. They created a team to raise awareness and give advice on the Coronavirus. The people here are not waiting for others, for NGOs to come and help. To come and clean their toilets. No, these people are able to build something for themselves, to stand on their own feet if only they get the chance to do so and the support for it.”

© Photos: Toni Petraschk / Mare Liberum

Currently, around 15.000 migrants live in Moria and most of them are forced to live in the so-called ‘jungle’ – without proper water supplies, sewerage or garbage collection. Naturally a lot of refuse piled up inside and outside the camp but a group of people refused to accept this. A few months ago, the ‘White Helmets of Moria’ started cleaning the camp: Around 100 residents of Moria collect waste in zone 10 to 12 and bring it to the garbage dump at least three times per week.

Raed [fifth photo], from Syria, is one of them: “If you ask us why we do this, the answer is that we see it as our duty to protect ourselves and those around us. We do so for our own safety and to preserve the environment. We hope that our Greek brothers respect our work. We are ready to continue our work even outside the camp.”

“We are waiting how to die. We deserve to be treated as humans and we urge the European Union to help: To evacuate refugees from Moria and accept them in their countries!”

© Photos: Toni Petraschk / Mare Liberum

Every Saturday morning, a group of volunteers sets up tents and small pavilions next to the olive grove of Moria: the Saturday School. Between 150-300 children from two years onwards come to attend the classes and games which are self-organized by older migrants. The group used to meet at the 'International School of Peace’ before it was burned down earlier this year. Until they find a new place for the school, they provisionally set up tents next to Moria.

“The children in Moria did not decide to come here,” one of the teachers tells us. “Their parents decided for them, and now they grow up here without an education. We need to reteach some children the alphabet every week because they don’t get a chance to study outside of Saturday School. This is because they can’t go to class frequently enough, but also because they have many other issues going on in their lives apart from worrying about their education.”

The Saturday School is not just an opportunity to learn, but also a great chance for the children to socialize and forget about their realities in Moria for a few hours. While the migrants’ self-organization is greatly inspiring and admirable, they should not have to worry about organizing education for the children in Moria. We urge the Greek authorities to organize proper education for all children!

© Photos: Anne Barth / Mare Liberum

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