Tomorrow is finally the day.
As you’re probably tired of hearing me say (if you’re an avid reader of this blog, I’m looking at you, Dad), I’ll be going to Chios tomorrow.
Chios is the fifth largest island in Greece, and it also has a refugee camp that is nearly three times over capacity, with people living in a barbed-wire detention center and tents on the beach. Chios is supposed to house 1,300 refugees—it currently has 3,782 people.
The situation at the camp in Chios is dire. Self harm and suicide attempts are on the rise in the camp, including a young Syrian self-immolating in March. There have been reports of the food at the camp giving people food poisoning. In a Guardian article, one British volunteer referred to the situation in Chios as “Europe’s dirty little secret.”
People keep asking me if I’m excited to go tomorrow, which is kind of a weird question. Am I excited to bear witness to the inhuman living conditions at the refugee camp? Not really.
People ask me if I’m nervous, and I guess that’s one way to put it. I’m definitely feeling the pressure. This may be a story for me, but for the people in this story, it’s their lives, the lives of their children and their futures.
One thing that helped me prepare for tomorrow’s reporting trip was going to Elpida yesterday. Elpida, the Greek word for “hope,” is an abandoned jeans factory that was converted into transitional housing for Syrian and Iraqi refugees who are awaiting asylum grants and relocation visas in Thessaloniki, Greece. The residence currently houses 92 refugees, 60 of whom are children.
Dina Rokić, the administrative officer at Elpida, was endlessly patient with our group, fielding our many questions. She did a great job helping us contextualize the Syrian refugee crisis, and I felt as though I learned more from Dina in those two hours than from all the articles I’ve read in the past couple years.
I know that what I learned today will help inform my reporting as I head to Chios tomorrow.