Monthly Report - September 2021
In September, as the days got colder we served 2,026 hot meals, washed 44 loads of laundry, distributed 110 basic hygiene packs, and welcomed 104 new arrivals who came from the Turkish border, were pushed back from Albania or North Macedonia, or were released from detention camps.
Again, our numbers have dropped this month as the fortification of the Turkish land border, coupled with colder weather, and more and more pushbacks makes the climate for people-on-the-move ever more difficult to navigate. Whilst it is always sad to see Fortress Europe succeeding in preventing people from seeking international protection, the reduced numbers allow us to be more inventive with our food and serve special dishes like fried chicken, banana pancakes, and even lamb curry. The people we serve certainly appreciate these nice little additions to the daily menu. A new generous donation for all of our fresh food, dry food, and extra items like gas, oil and water has come in from Choose Love, which helps us to add these special touches alongside the generosity of our committed team of volunteers We also welcomed a wonderful and unexpected delivery of bikes from Hamburger Hilfskonvoi – organised by the wonderful IHA warehouse and benefitting projects across Northern Greece. Some of our longer term community team members and the coordination team are really loving having a new way to travel the city and do smaller logistics tasks!
Unfortunately in the last two weeks we had to deal with several very difficult cases that involved members of the community. It is a well known fact that the people we serve are faced with racial profiling, police violence, brutal pushbacks, and denial of access to their basic human rights, whilst living in precarious structures without access to electricity or running water. As a result of these living conditions, some people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their reality and this can result in inter-communal conflict. Sadly in the last two weeks this led to the deaths of two of our community members (https://www.typosthes.gr/thessaloniki/259929_prin-ligo-nekros-brethike-25hronos-nearos-sti-dytiki-thessaloniki / https://parallaximag.gr/epikairotita/thessaloniki-nekros-nearos-epeita-apo-epithesi-me-machairi-sto-kentro). On top of this, one of the people we serve was arrested and committed suicide in his police cell (https://alterthess.gr/aytoktonia-25chronoy-metanasti-sto-a-t-leykoy-pyrgoy-allos-enas-poy-epapse-na-yparchei-poly-prin-papsei-na-yparchei-viologika/). In recent weeks the Evros river border has become increasingly in focus too, with five missing people reported after a pushback where the group was abandoned on an island without access to food, water, or shelter. Videos and images have been circulating of three or four individuals who tried to swim back to the shore to get help and tragically drowned in the strong current. As always it is very difficult for us to see the realities on the ground of Europe’s harsh border regime, and makes us realise more than ever why we are here.
We now begin to prepare for the winter – switching over our summer stock, logging and organising everything that’s being stored for us in the IHA warehouse and preparing for our first big winter distribution later this week. Thanks to generous donations from Grenzenlose Waerme, Hamburger Hilfskonvoi and NAOMI Workshop we are almost fully prepared for a distribution of warm joggers, jumpers, thermal tops and winter socks. We will top up the extra needs – leggings, hats, scarves and gloves – with the amazing support of Three Peas from the UK. Already the people we serve have been asking us for these items in the last weeks as the nights get colder and the border areas too. We expect the population will soon settle for the winter months as it becomes too difficult to cross and so we are in the moment of preparing ourselves to provide for their needs as the weather becomes more difficult and dangerous for those living outside.