“Ongi etorri errefuxiatuak”, the protest of the volunteers for the volunteers

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Copyright: Carmen Russo

by Jack Cowles 

“I’m helping in my free time. I think that you cannot change the government, the only thing that you can do is to save the refugees in their daily life. To go there, to speak with them to make them realise that some people care about them because they feel like they are forgotten from society. That nobody cares about their suffering. I think the only thing we can do is to open minds”. – Paloma, a Spanish volunteer in Thessaloniki.

Copyright: Carmen Russo

On Tuesday 27th December 2016 two Spanish volunteers were arrested for helping eight refugees to  escape from Greece. They are being put under a lot of pressure with the law meaning that officers of the law are trying to do them for as much excuses as possible but the two volunteers are not alone. After the event on Tuesday 27th many other volunteers working in camps as well as the supporting citizens from numerous countries all over the world have become furious at the European Union`s attitude towards human rights and have started demonstrations.
The demonstration that took place in Aristotelous Square, in Thessaloniki, was a small one but this did not mean that it was not powerful.

The protest in Aristotelous Square
Copyright: Carmen Russo

Within just days of the event the volunteers came together and started to work immediately on some materials for the demonstration including powerful signage, a great location and have got the media coverage they need from many journalists and media organisations that show great interest in this type of story.

Upon meeting the volunteers told that everything is not as its supposed to be in the camps. “First I arrived at the camp to teach English but then one week later they didn’t have electricity, water and they didn’t have heaters and it was snowing. There was no milk for the babies and by the end we started to teach them English and make some friends but then we ended up in all these problems like speaking with an engineer to come and help fix the electricity or speaking with other organisations to help buy some milk for the babies”, told one of the volunteers. 

Copyright: Carmen Russo

Paloma continues: “The conditions of the camp are terrible, something that makes me angry is that one of the arguments about why they want to put the two volunteers in jail is that they put them in bad conditions in the caravan. Maybe they can have an accident or something and the caravan is not the best place but they are almost dieing from the cold in the camps, they don’t have heaters and here is cold. The electricity in the camp I’m at is from the army but they are not doing anything to fix it! It is very hypocritical of them to say this when they are not doing anything to help. I’m very lucky not to have seen the worst of the conditions there also but one time they had no electricity for three days and they are hundreds of refugees living under a piece of fabric and with no electricity, meaning that by 5 O’clock you are left in complete darkness and are unable to cook or even heat some water for a hot drink. It’s very cold! The refugees are even making protests inside the camp to attract attention so someone can help them fix these problems” – concluded Paloma.

Copyright: Carmen Russo


If volunteers end up in this situation and have even seen enough to help people escape from the terrible conditions then it is bad in there? Is the European Union really doing anything with the enormous budget they have to provide shelter, food and health for these mistreated people? 

This is the question many citizens are discussing.

Post Author: Balkan Hotspot

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