Δευτέρα, 8 Αυγούστου 2016

PLEIADES - REPORT ON VASILIKA REFUGEE CAMP









Vasilika Reception Site
A Report on Living Conditions
Based on information available on 29 July 2016












Written by Amer Al Haj
Edited by Simona Bonardi

Table of Contents
1       General........................................................................................................................... 3
1.1    Introduction................................................................................................................ 3
1.2    Terminology............................................................................................................... 3
1.3    References................................................................................................................. 3
1.4    Disclaimer.................................................................................................................. 3
2       Living Conditions at Vasilika Reception Site................................................................. 3
2.1    General...................................................................................................................... 3
2.2    Capacity and Number of Residents............................................................................... 7
2.3    Shelter....................................................................................................................... 7
2.4    Environment and Safety............................................................................................... 9
2.5    Sanitation................................................................................................................. 13
2.5.1      Cleaning......................................................................................................................... 16
2.6    Services................................................................................................................... 17
2.6.1      Electricity....................................................................................................................... 17
2.6.2      Food.............................................................................................................................. 17
2.6.3      Health............................................................................................................................ 21
2.6.4      Services for Children....................................................................................................... 22
2.6.5      Internet.......................................................................................................................... 26
2.6.6      Legal Advice and Access to Asylum Procedures.................................................................. 27
2.6.7      Warehouse and Goods Distribution................................................................................... 29
2.6.8      Security.......................................................................................................................... 30
2.7    Photo Credits............................................................................................................ 30


1            General

1.1      Introduction

The document describes the living conditions in Vasilika refugee camp in Northern region, Greece.

1.2      Terminology

Term
Description
Remarks



1.3      References

Ref.
Document
Document location
[1]     
Practical Guide to the Systematic Use of Standards & Indicators in UNHCR Operations

[2]     
UNHCR Site Profiles, 29 June 2016
http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/download.php?id=1582

[3]     
UNHCR Sites in Greece, 29 June 2016
http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/download.php?id=1589

1.4      Disclaimer

Unless otherwise specified, the document reports information available on 29 July 2016.
Due to rapidly changing circumstances, the limited availability of official data and inconsistencies identified across a multiplicity of (unofficial) sources, data accuracy and completeness may not be guaranteed. However, all information is reported to the best knowledge of the author, given in good faith, and selected across sources (including onsite witnesses) and media deemed reliable.

2            Living Conditions at Vasilika Reception Site

2.1      General

The denomination Vasilika identifies a reception site in Thermi / Redostos municipality, in Northern region of Greece.
The site is located South East of Thessaloniki. The camp can be reached by bus from the city with one change: first, one bus from the centre to the change station, then a second bus from here to the camp, for a total journey duration of three hours (one hour each bus trip plus one hour average wait). The cost of the bus ticket is 1.20 euros. It is reported that the bus often does not stop to pick up passengers waiting at the camp, thus further increasing the waiting time and the total journey duration.
One coordinator from UNHCR is assigned to the camp and cooperates with the army.
The camp is open for unrestricted exit and people normally leave the camp to go shopping for food and groceries.
The official NGOs allowed in the camp are: UNHCR, InterVolve, WAHA, MDM, Save The Children. All organizations report to UNHCR. Independent volunteers and journalists are not allowed. A number of organizations willing to provide additional medical assistance and services for the camp’s residents failed to obtain authorization and were unable to operate.

Environment
Environment

Environment
Environment
Environment
Some organization did not succeed to obtain registration to provide assistance in the camp and were forced to leave

2.2      Capacity and Number of Residents

The predominant nationality at the site is Syrian (92% of the total).
Approximately 16% of the total number are children and 27% are women.
Information regarding age distribution and the number of people with special needs has been made available thanks to the volunteer work of camp’s residents.

M
F
Children
(<12 yrs old)
Syrian
54%
25%
13%
Iraqi
3%
2%
3%
Total
57%
27%
16%
According to UNHCR [3], capacity is 1,500 and the current number of residents is 1,229. This number was the number of residents at the creation of the camp when the camp was initially established (13 June 2016) by moving the residents of EKO Polykastro Gas Station and it is currently highly inaccurate. The number changes daily due to people leaving the camp (housing, smugglers, self-deportation). The actual number of residents is currently estimated around 1,000.
Kurdish minority is present at the camp. There are no Yazidis.

2.3      Shelter

Camp consists of ten large halls which used to be storage warehouses for wheat. The government rents the space for use as a camp for 12,000 euros per month. Each hangar includes 30 to 40 tents for a total number of tents of 313 in the whole camp.
Camp’s residents sleep in tents inside the hangars / halls. Hangars are very crowded, with virtually no space between tents, which are semi-detached. Each person was provided with a blanket by UNHCR and a sleeping bag and an army bed (generally too small / narrow and deemed unusable) by the army.
The camp’s ground is made of cement inside the halls and gravel outside.
There are three fans in each hangar.
Each hangar has a fridge (whether donated or provided by the camp management is unknown) for communal use.
Shelters / Hangars
Shelters / Tents
Shelters / Tents
Army bed

2.4      Environment and Safety

The buildings are open and offer neither heating nor air conditioning.
Halls have ceilings, which provide protection against rain and alleviate the effect of the direct sunlight. During the day, the temperature is sweltering and reaches 45 degrees Celsius inside the halls.
Camp is surrounded by a fence 2.5 metres high and is close to a highly trafficked road, with vehicles travelling at high speed. At least one incident was reported (camp resident ran over by a car).
The fence is broken in the front, just a few metres from the road. Children often play outside of the camp and on the edge of the road, exposed to danger. There is a dedicated space for children inside the camp, but it is empty and not equipped with any item or material for children’s activities.
Snakes are often found in the camp and in the hangars, in between tents.
Mice and rats are found every day inside and outside the hangars. They are also found inside tents because tents cannot be closed and the hangars’ doors cannot be properly closed.
There are occasional fights among the residents, however there were never serious injuries reported. The Police does not take any action when fights occur.
When the camp was established (13 June 2016), groups of locals threw stones to camp’s residents for two nights. Police took action against that.
Snakes are often found at the camp’s premises, both outdoor and indoor
No appropriate facilities to hang the laundry. The camp is populated with mice, rats, snakes.
Highly trafficked road just outside of the camp’s fence
Highly trafficked road just outside of the camp’s fence
Broken fence with direct access to the trafficked road

2.5      Sanitation

According to UNHCR [2], each site should be equipped with 1 toilet per 20 individuals, 1 shower per 50 individuals, 1 water tap per 250 individuals, 1 hygiene promoter per 1000 individuals.
The camp has are 50 bathrooms and 80 toilets. There are 3 toilets and 2 separate bathrooms for people with special needs. Following an early request by the camp’s residents to replace some toilets and introduce Turkish ones, UNHCR committed to take action; however, nothing happened since. The facilities are deemed of acceptable quality, however the cleaning frequency is considered insufficient.
There are no separate shower facilities for men and women. Although toilets are marked for men / women use, they are promiscuously used.
There are solar panels to heat the water. However, there seems to be a malfunction or an issue with the configuration of the panels because in the morning water is too hot to shower and there are no controls to regulate the temperature of the water flow by users. For the rest of the day, people warm water leaving bottles in the sun.
There are 50 water faucets. The water supply is sometimes interrupted for hours without an alternative option.
Shower box for disabled people or people with limited mobility
Warming water in the sun for use to shower. The solar panels make the hot water too hot for use and there are no controls to regulate the water temperature in the showers.
Water taps
Toilets
Toilet. Although marked, toilet facilities are promiscuously used by men and women.
Shower. There are no separate shower facilities for men and women.
Fault with the water flushing
The issue persisted for about a month

2.5.1Cleaning

Cleaning is carried out twice a day by the Army. Garbage containers are emptied with the same frequency.
Cleaning is currently deemed as insufficient. The camp is infested with mice and rats.

Cleaning and garbage collection, performed twice a day, is currently deemed as insufficient. The camp is infested with mice and rats.

2.6      Services

2.6.1Electricity

According to UNHCR, electricity is available all day.
Power supply is available to all tents throughout the day via power extension cables. Safety standards are poor and are cause for concern among the camp’s residents.

2.6.2Food

According to UNHCR, 3 or more meals per day are distributed and cover 100% of the people.
Food distribution is care of the Army, with an officer appointed to monitor the distribution, which happens twice a day: the first at 12:00, including lunch, the second at 18:00, including dinner and breakfast for the next day. The quality of food is extremely poor and approximately 60% of the food is thrown away uneaten on a daily basis. Some invest effort in re-cooking the food distributed / received.
Breakfast is similar every day (one piece of cheese, bread, croissant). Dinner and lunch are different every day though not nutritious or balanced in terms of dietary needs.
Mean re-cooking
Meal re-cooking
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food
Camp food

2.6.2.1         Baby Food

Baby food is distributed twice a day and includes crushed pills and canned milk.
Canned milk distributed for children
Baby Meal

2.6.3Health

According to UNHCR, there should be a health facility onsite or less than 5km away from each reception site.
There are clinic in the cam. It functions 6 days per week, except on Sundays, for a period of 7 hours a day (WAHA, MDM). Each team has a generic medical doctor, an Arabic interpreter (often a camp’s resident) and one or more nurses. Average wait is between 1 and 3 hours depending on the number of patients. A dentist is available once every 15 days – the waiting occurs outside of the clinic. There are no OBGYN doctors or paediatricians.
Vaccination praxis undergone by new-born children is unclear and in appearance inconsistent. For babies born at the hospital, some of the vaccines may be delivered immediately after birth and others may be planned on a personal vaccination record card. However, this could not be confirmed. In general, children’s access to compulsory vaccinations remains uncertain and poses serious reasons for concern.
Highly specialized medical services may not be provided at the sites’ premises. More difficult cases are therefore referred to local hospitals in Thessaloniki.
The average wait for an ambulance is 45 minutes. Patients are taken to the nearest adults’ hospital.
So far, one child presenting severe diarrhoea and fever has been detained in the hospital when accompanying his mother to give birth.
Waiting area for doctor’s visit. The doctor’s visits happen in the small office on the right-hand side (grey door)

2.6.4Services for Children

There are no planned or organized activities for the children, with the exception of occasional entertainment / games improvised by volunteers (inside or outside the camp).
Save The Children distributes towels and milk. They have an office within the camp open seven hours a day except Sunday.
Children’s activities
Children’s activities
Children’s space
Children's activities
Children playing on the edge of highly trafficked road bordering the camp
Children playing on the edge of highly trafficked road bordering the camp
Children's activities
Children's activities
Children's activities

2.6.5Internet

According to UNHCR, WiFi Internet access is available.
There is poor WiFi Internet access at the camp’s site. The Wi-Fi network is care of the company Net-Hop. However, it is reported that the network does not work well, with often very weak signal and several tents not covered by the network. Issues are not being addressed, which poses questions regarding the actual will to improve the situation by the camp management versus the actual availability of the required skills.

Camp's internet router

2.6.6Legal Advice and Access to Asylum Procedures

According to UNHCR [3], a mobile UNHCR team is assigned to the camp.
There is no UNHCR office at the camp, however every day (except Saturdays and Sundays), for seven hours per day, a UNHCR officer coordinates dates of interviews for families applying for reunion, coordinates activities with the Army, the police, and organizations present at the camp. The UNHCR officer is the official point of contact for any inquiry.
During the first week of July, pre-registration was carried out at the camp.
The pre-registration was announced to camp’s residents one day before. Communication was made by a UNHCR representative. About 70% of the people were aware of what was about to happen.
On the day of pre-registration, people stood in line from 9:00am. Information was provided by one EASO and one UNHCR representatives. The average wait in line was 20-30 minutes per person – not everyone stood in line at once and people were called to line in groups with reasonable notice. The waiting occurred in an empty building, sheltered from sun. Two lines were served. The service was fulfilled by three people: one to check the applicant’s police documents, one to provide a bracelet (tracking the successful pre-registration and pre-registration number) and a translator. People were consistently interviewed: they were requested to exhibit the deportation suspension order issued by Greek Police and asked whether they were travelling alone or with family. Other ID documents were not relevant / considered (e.g. passport). The pre-registration completed for each applicant without need to sign any document or receipt.
Pre-registration cards were collected by the applicants at the premises of a restricted military area. People were divided in groups assigned to different morning slots and transferred from the camp by bus. At the premises, applicants were interviewed (nationality, faith, education, spoken languages), photographed for the document, and asked to sign (content of the document signed is unknown). Cards were printed onsite and collected immediately. Applicants were not allowed to be accompanied / assisted by their appointed lawyer in the process. The poor organization forced people to be waiting for the return transfer for hours under the sun with no food or water. Among them, children, elderly people, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities.

During the reception of the asylum seeker cards after pre-registration, hundreds of Vasilika residents wanted to be assisted by Pleiades lawyers on  the spot. The lawyers were obstructed by private security from entering the space (where the cards were being received by their clients), invoking "orders of UNHCR". The police was called on the spot by the lawyers. Although an Asylum Service's official was sought for, only UNHCR and EASO representatives were actually present. (In the photo, the lawyer is the blond woman in the middle of the circle.)
Wait for the return bus ride outside of the military area after collection of pre-registration cards
People were left stranded on the pavement without assistance, food, water. A guard gave some bottled water from his personal stock.
Wait for the return bus ride outside of the military area after collection of pre-registration cards
Wait for the return bus ride outside of the military area after collection of pre-registration cards
Wait for the return bus ride outside of the military area after collection of pre-registration cards
Wait for the return bus ride outside of the military area after collection of pre-registration cards

2.6.7Warehouse and Goods Distribution

There is an empty hangar used for storing and distributing goods such as toiletries and cleaning products. The items are distributed via appointed representatives of the camp’s residents, five representatives for each hangar who in turn distribute to the respective hangar’s tents.
Clothes were never distributed since the establishment of the camp. Underwear was distributed once.

Warehouse

2.6.8Security

According to UNHCR [3], security is provided by Hellenic Police.
Police officers, available 24 hours, are in charge for camp’s security.

2.7      Photo Credits

Unless otherwise specified, photo credits are Amer Al Haj’s with the exception of images in section 2.6.6, by Simona Bonardi.