20 June 2017
GREECE: Moria, plea for freedom
and improved living conditions for refugees detained in a camp on Lesbos.
Europe regional project coordinator
not know how the town of Moria got its name. Perhaps it has a specific meaning
in Greek, a language in which I lack any skill. Perhaps it was the name of its
founder. Whatever the case may be, when I hear it, my mind is instantly drawn
to thoughts of the fallen Dwarven stronghold of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
It is probably not fair to compare Moria, Lesbos to Tolkien’s Moria, a deserted
underground cavern void of hope that has become the mass grave of an entire
city — especially since I have never been invited by a wizard or dwarf to visit
it. There is, however, near the Greek town a camp sharing its name, and the
comparison between these two tragic places is painfully apt.
never been inside the camp of Moria either, but I have seen it from the
outside. Fences hold the asylum seekers inside. Moria is not officially a camp
— it is a “reception center” for refugees, who are “received” and locked
straight away. They spend 25 days locked inside. Their first 25 days in the
“enlightened and free West” are spent behind walls topped with razor wire. They
are forced to sleep in rows on the ground. They may perhaps be given a blanket,
if they are lucky. And they are expected to refrain from complaining. Sometimes
there is running water, sometimes not. This place, if anywhere, is a trap and a
tomb. It is a grave for hope. It is where humans, like the dwarves of Tolkien’s
stories, wait around to expire, their dreams and aspirations all but dead. One
man told me, “I would rather have died from a bomb in my own country than die
like this in a ‘free’ country.”
an acquaintance who lives there, but I cannot visit him. No one is allowed in.
The authorities know the residents are hardly treated as human and they do not
want anyone to see it. Armed guards stand watch, checking credentials. This may
well be the only place where only people who can prove that they are refugees
may enter freely. My friend wrote a poem about what it is like there in that
pit of desperation and despair:
lie in the bushes while they lie on their beds.
We sleep separated from our wives while they sleep beside their wives.
We sleep in tents while they sleep in houses.
We bathe in cold water while they bathe in warm.
We queue for food as they prepare their own breakfast.
They educate their children but keep ours out of school.
They get competent medical attention while we get paracetamol for everything.
All of us eat the food of their choice.
sacrificed our lives to come to your country.
We are strong at heart,
Great in talent,
Committed to our future,
and loyal to our country.
fight relentlessly to win our freedom.
We are refugees, not criminals.
All we seek is our freedom—freedom to move forward.
We too want to sleep beside our wives.
We too want to our children to be educated.
put us into this situation,
and love will give us our freedom.
But we can’t do it alone–
We can only do it with the help of the Greeks.
friend wrote this heartfelt plea in an attempt to find people who would listen
to his voice. He only wishes for others to know the struggles of those whom the
West deem to be different — different enough to be forsaken and left to wallow
in the muck and mire that is Moria. With that I will leave you with a quotation
from Robert Augustus Masters:
need to recognize — and recognize with our whole being — that what we do to another,
both in action and intention, we do to ourselves. Such recognition does not
necessarily mean that we should stop protecting ourselves, but that we stop
over budgeting for defense, stop dehumanizing others, and not leave our heart
out of whatever measures we may need to take.