THE SITUATION ON LESVOS
Since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, 21st of March 2016, Lesvos has ceased to be a place of registration and transit for refugees bound for northern Europe, and has been repurposed as a limbic space of indefinite waiting for asylum requests to be processed. The number of people trapped on the island has increased dramatically and nurtured frustrations as refugees begin to despair, uncertain of their future. Currently there are more than 8500 refugees trapped on the island (August 2018).
Greece’s current financial situation under austerity has left the state unable to provide for its own citizens, and has found it deeply lacking in its ability to provide even basic services to its new migrant population. State facilities have failed to adapt to the prospect of the refugees’ long-term stay on the island, keeping most in deplorable conditions, without access to psychological or psychiatric aid or, often, to basic legal services with which to advance the asylum claims that could allow them to leave the island. As a result, people find no outlet to their frustration save daily outbreaks of panic, unrest and violence.
Meanwhile, humanitarian aid has focused its efforts in compensating for failures in the state apparatus by catering to basic needs: food, makeshift shelter, clothes etc. — provisions necessary for people to survive, but not, in the words of some refugees, “to remain human”; the daily tedium and unbearable boredom of those refugees left to wallow in camps indefinitely is maddening, and their confinement to shanty dwellings on the outskirts of the city gives them little opportunity to interact with the local community or to entertain the prospect of integration.
With aid organizations focused on the provision of basic amenities, there are very few spaces in which refugees who — either by force or by choice — will stay in Lesvos or Greece can find more focused support such as access to legal and psychological aid, to the local community, to the opportunity to work creatively, to education, and to steps towards integration here. This project was born as an attempt to contribute to the closure of that gap – to create a space in which people could gather and, for a few hours, no longer feel like refugees forced into states of entrapment and dependence, but like people empowered through mutual solidarity and support.