Arriving on a rubber boat safely to Lesvos island from Turkey is only the beginning of a long journey for most refugees. As the next step is to get on a 12 hour ferry ride to Athens, families with small children can wait a whole day in the cold and rain as it does not usually depart until the evening. Once in Athens, most get on buses for a 6 hours ride across the country to the Macedonian border located in the small village of Idomeni. Once they arrive, all have the option to rest or stay over night in the camp before crossing over. Although, rare are the ones who chooses to stay more than a few hours unless being obligated due to needed medical attention or the lack of official papers to be able to go on. This long journey through Greece is not only the story of refugees, but a story of our humanity being challenged to evolve past cultural division.
After the Greek/Macedonian border closed this past March 2016, thousands of families ended up stranded in the village of Idomeni, unable to continue their journey through Europe. Since March 31st, most have been obligated to relocate inside Greek military camps for registration process, to legally further continue their journey through Europe. This process can take months up to one year. Children living in extremely poor conditions, placed in an abandoned building with no proper air ventilation and no showers while playing in debris all day long. Many other families have avoided to check inside these military camps, living in open air camps on the side of the road while attempting to cross over illegally to Macedonia by night.
Two months after a first visit to Softex military camp in Thessaloniki Greece, some improvements have been made. Plastic showers have been installed around the camp and a school with four classrooms has been has been built where daily classes for children are taking place. Several organisations such as UNHCR, Red Cross and Save The Children have been temporarily placed in the camp to assist with minimum needs. Despite these improvements, the reality of the situation for many refugee families have not changed. Many of these families and children are in need of urgent medical attention which become worse due to the poor condition of living. This is the case for 8 years old Mohamad Shabon who caught a chest affection and was discovered to have an abnormality in his heart while being examined by the red cross.