Well, as time has gone by, things in the camp have become more unbearable, as expected. Something that has been unexpected; however, is the number of new boats arriving on Leros. Since the last time I wrote about the dire situation at the Hotspot, a grand total of ZERO boats have arrived on Leros, bringing no new refugees. Why? I don’t know. But I find myself asking this question over and over again. Have we just been lucky? I can’t believe that.
The rumor mill runs rampant in the refugee community and those surrounding it, so I begin by stating, none of the following information is necessarily factual, it’s just stuff that I’ve heard:
No new boats have arrived on Leros because the Turkish Coastguard has more heavily policed the waters between Turkey and Leros in an effort to slow the population growth of the camp. With so many refugees arriving in such a short amount of time, Turkey was aware of where to post their ships to stop the refugees.
Also, supposedly, one smuggler in particular, who was especially vital in getting Palestinians across the waters, has been arrested in Turkey. Now, this doesn’t seem like it would stop the flow of refugees to Leros entirely to me; however, maybe it’s a factor. I don’t know.
Personally, I’m still waiting with bated breath to see what happens once the Hotspot begins to fill up again.
But, back to the point of this post:
Tensions in the Hotspot reached a new peak on Thursday Night/Friday Morning. Again, rumors really fly around this island, so I can only write what I’ve heard, and what I think I believe.
On Friday morning, when I came to school, the number of students attending my class dropped by about 40%. I thought this was a little odd since the previous days lesson had gone so well, but there are so many factors as to why the school is either full or empty that I didn’t even give it much thought. It turns out, numbers were low because no one was able to sleep in Hotspot the previous night. From 2am to 5am, there was a riot, which involved more than two hundred refugees, the police, tear gas, and multiple injured people, 11 of which needed to be transported to the local hospital when everything was said and done.
A video of the situation surfaced on the internet rather quickly and I was able to see the worst of what was happening. Someone was bleeding and there was a significant amount of blood. One of the many pieces of the story that I had heard was that he had been stabbed. Given the angle of the video, I would have believed this to be true, but I cannot confirm or deny this to be the truth.
As the day progressed, when I was teaching my second class (a course where my students can more easily convey their thoughts and emotions in English), my students filled me in on what had happened. There was a scuffle at a bar in town between some refugees and some Greek locals. The refugees went back to the camp to collect as many of their friends as possible and then go back to town to beat up the locals. The police in the camp didn’t allow this, locking the camp down. Then, the refugees, numbering around 200, rioted. I’ve heard both sound bites and seen video clips of what was happening. It sounds scary, it looks scary. One of my students even said that it felt like the camp had become a war zone. There was so much shouting, the police had to hit back at the refugees, multiple cans of tear gas were thrown.
It seems, all of my students just locked themselves in their containers and turned off their lights so not to be disturbed. Unfortunately, no one was able to sleep through the madness though, and it lasted all night.
This is the first time I’ve heard of something like this happening at the camp. The situation involved alcohol, but at the same time, tensions are high whether people are intoxicated or not. I thought, perhaps, things would just continue to get worse as time went on, but I haven’t heard of anything falling apart in the last three nights.
At the end of the day, violence is scary, but it isn’t headed in my direction, and everyone I know is okay.