12/10/2019, Vial camp, Chios. I have started work at the school and the hours of free time are very few. But, today, I found the time to go to Vial. I asked the guard at the gate whether the official permit I had to visit my students last year was still valid. I was allowed to enter this time but I must apply again. Maybe they will give me permission. Maybe.
I walked around the camp. I saw a first-grade student of mine. With a smile, he told me about the others. Most, fortunately, were moved to camps on the mainland at the end of the summer. Some girls approached me and asked again: "Teacher, when will we go to school in the city?" I didn't know what to tell them. The new government still hasn’t issued a decision.
I met a Syrian mom with an eight-month-old baby. She asked me for diapers and some clothes. The baby’s diapers she receives from Vial are not enough.
We walked towards the south side of the camp. Passing next to a container, we noticed the strong smell of urine that came from the toilets. The lamps inside were flashing. The garbage next to the containers hadn't been collected for days and the people are so many that the number of bins is not enough.
We walked down to the fields behind Vial where people have been pitching tents because there is no more space inside the camp. We had difficulty passing between them and there was no room to stand. The men tried to make small, makeshift houses from plastic and wood. They hoped this would better protect them from the rain than the summer tents they had been given. Streams have been dug to keep rainwater out of their area.
A mother bathed her baby with a bottle of cold water. The baby was crying.
Many Africans prayed. A group of Muslims repented in the surrounding fields.
The children were crammed into the tents. A family of five had a one square meter tent. A family of Syrians from Afrin had lit a fire and were cooking. They showed us the food they had been given by the military in Vial saying "food, no good". It was plain rice, again.
Images that I don't want to remember but that I can't forget. I have never gone to refugee camps in other parts of the world but I am sure they are better than what I saw today in Vial. How can a person have one square meter to eat, sleep, pray, cry?
I was walking away like in a dream, as the night fell and slowly the scenes darkened and disappeared. Only the voices of the people, the voices of the children and the crying of the babies were heard at a distance, suggesting that 4,000 people ‘live’ in this place.
Vial camp, Chios. October 2019. | Photo by Omar. All rights reserved.
I felt the need to stay. I felt the need to leave. To disappear. Not to see, not to hear. I am just ashamed.