Life for refugee children in Greece

This story is part of the “Through Her Eyes” photography project implemented by CARE Greece, which aimes to giving people the opportunity to view urban life for refugee women and girls in Greece through their eyes. Five women and girls provide unique and personal insights into their daily lives through their photos. Their names have been changed for protection reasons. CARE provides emergency assistance to refugees stranded in Greece including cash, protection and accommodation.

Amene lived in Elliniko camp for refugees and displaced people in Athens, Greece. She and her husband made the decision to leave Iran in 2015 and reached Greece in 2016. As Afghans, they are not eligible for the European relocation program so when the boarders of the “Balkan-route” closed in March of 2016, their options were limited to applying for asylum in Greece.

Living inside a camp is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. My emotions about the time I have spent in Elliniko camp in Athens are mixed. On the one hand, it is similar to a small village. Sometimes it is very cold, sometimes it is very hot. Now that spring is here, there are beautiful flowers growing between the tents.

I felt safe in the camp. I can say that life there was alright for me. Sometimes I was stressed, mostly because I had no idea what was going to happen to me. Questions about if my asylum application would be accepted and how long I will need to live in the camp drove me crazy. But the anxiety went away after a while. I focused on the fact that I had survived and I felt safe. I had escaped war, so nothing could stop me now. Yes, I could manage life in the camp. But many children and mothers could not.

I am sad for all the children living in camps who want to play and who, unconsciously, keep trying to be children. They run around with ripped shoes or barefoot, they play with anything they can find. They replace balls with stones and throw them to each other to play. They use the big dirt hills in the camp, leftovers from unfinished construction work, as playground slides. They tie clothes on pillars or wherever they can to build swings.

Elliniko refugee and IDP camp in Athens, Greece.

I am sad for all those mothers who have to wait for more than two hours to have a hot shower and for those who can’t wash or dry their babies’ clothes.

Elliniko refugee and IDP camp in Athens, Greece.

And lastly, I am sad for all the parents who feel exhausted and depressed and have given up on their hopes and dreams. Those who leave their children running around barefoot playing with dangerous “toys”. I don’t blame them; they are just exhausted.

Elliniko refugee and IDP camp in Athens, Greece.

I hope my two year-old friend and neighbour, and all the refugee children, mothers and fathers will leave the camps as soon as possible and that they will find the better life they are all fighting for so hard. A safe life full of joy.

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