We are no longer accepting new registrations at the Hub. This means that people who arrive on the island from today on will not be able to come to our school to attend classes or to our library to study. Of all of the Hotspots, all the refugee camps in Greece, Leros was often looked at as one of the best ones for a refugee to be placed at. The camp doesn’t have tents, first of all, so the people have actual structures over their heads for when it rains. There also isn’t typically too much overcrowding, so people are treated at least marginally more humanely. And, of course, Leros has the Hub, which gives people the critical ability to have something to do and somewhere to go other than the camp. The Hub educates, stimulates, and uplifts. Our blockage of new students is unprecedented, in that, we have never done this before in all of the years that this NGO has existed. It’s really sad, and the decision was not come to lightly by my coordinators, but it feels like the right move. It feels like it’s an immediate way to alleviate stress on the team; however, the solution will only help us a certain amount. It’s like plugging the hole on a sinking boat when there’s already almost enough water to pull the whole vessel below the surface. There’s still a lot of work to do and we’re not out of the woods. The water that isn’t in the boat still wants to get in! Or something like that.
In 2016, the EU-Turkey Deal went through in an attempt to limit the number of refugees pouring into Greece from Turkey. This was called “the European Migration Crisis.” This deal was a horrible agreement that allows Europe to legally send refugees back to Turkey, even if they aren’t really safe there. It was a bullshit agreement that, while technically legal, was so inhumane, sentencing hundreds of thousands of people (specifically Syrians) to the tumultuous journey of crossing illegally into Europe multiple times, having to make multiple attempts after being returned to Turkey. This was Europe closing its doors to refugees.
We’ve now closed our doors, and the EU-Turkey Deal was the first thing to cross my mind when my coordinators announced their decision to our group this morning. But what can we do, right? There are so many questions that have been floating around in my head. We have so many new rules in place in an effort to make this place operate. At the end of each day and at the beginning of each day at our morning staff meetings, there’s always new examples of how people are finding loop holes in our system for classes and for the vans. We’re constantly finding little problems around the Hub, like people leaving doors open, stealing tea, riffling through bags, etc. We’re waiting. Waiting for all of these new people to not be new anymore, for them to know us and to trust us, to understand the rules, how this place functions, that we are here to help and to love them. Will things ever go back to “normal”? Will the tension in Hotspot inevitably be carried over into the Hub?
For the two days that we have not been accepting new registrations, we have not seen a noticeable difference in the number of people coming to the Hub. Obviously, we didn’t expect to see a difference, since we already have hundreds of people signed up to come to our school each day, but for a few unlucky people, they’ve been denied the chance to come to us for education and relief from the Hotspot. I overheard our receptionist telling a few people about our new policy. The problem is, they’re not understanding what’s being said to them. They only feel the sting of the denial. And even though they’re being told that our new policy won’t last forever, will they be so offended that they’ll simply never come back to us?
All of this being said, despite how crappy it is to now only be serving most of the refugees, I’m still more at ease knowing that our numbers aren’t still growing, even if it’ll never be felt. It is sad to hear about the continuation of boats flowing across the sea each day though, with more and more new arrivals each day, more and more people won’t have a shot at coming to us to relieve stress and to attempt learning English.
I’m ready to take bets on when we will reopen our doors because, for now, there’s one less door open for refugees in the world.