Since April 2, when some of our beneficiaries were tested positive for COVID-19, the situation at Ritsona camp, where I work, has changed radically. Police cars and police teams were patrolling the camp’s entrance. The beneficiaries, now excluded from any service, were in greater need than ever. We continued our presence at the camp, responding daily to the needs of the people; providing them with basic necessities but also taking care not to miss essential services. We couldn’t abandon them.
My presence at the camp stopped as soon as I finished my work. But my daily life was not as it used to be; it had changed. With an almost daily presence at the camp and next to the refugees, I had to protect my relatives and friends at the same time, staying away from them. So, all this time -and apart from going to Ritsona- I remained locked in my apartment without any social contact. As a result, I have not seen my own people, even if with some of them we live in the same building. At the same time, I have not visited my friends and I have significantly reduced my everyday movements to the absolutely necessary. Certainly, this new living context it’s hard for me. But I had the opportunity to “put myself” in confinement and the luck not to live in a small space – in a room or a tent – with up to 10 more people, as often happens in refugee camps.
Restriction within a particular place, inability to meet relatives and friends, reduced travel and limited access to services… Immediately there is a clear parallel that becomes a real fact…
This is the situation for the people we help. They face this situation daily and for a long period of time. They left their homeland, separated from their own people, escaped a war or other life threatening risks, and are now trapped inside camps with limited mobility and access to services, not only because of COVID-19, but because “this is the reality of a refugee”.
My containment will be over and sooner or later, I will return to my daily routine. However, the confinement of these people will continue for a long time.
I am Grigoris Papafragkas and I am a Lawyer and Team Leader at the Ritsona Open Accommodation Center. I am working at the Child & Family Support Hubs project, which is implemented by SolidarityNow with the support of UNICEF and IOM Greece and funded by the European Commission.