Since Macedonia closed its borders with Greece last Sunday, and following the intensification of European border control policies, hundreds of refugees have found themselves pushed back to the Greek border and sent back to Athens.
This is the second "Refugees Journeys" blog entry. By Romain Berthier.
Camps are overpopulated and many families spend the night sleeping on the floor, in tents, when they were lucky enough to be allowed into a camp. Many of them are obliged to spend several nights on the streets around the Victoria and Omonia squares in Athens.
Since Tuesday, Libraries Without Borders has set up the Ideas Box in the camp of Eleonas in Athens. This camp has a capacity of 680 people, although it is already hosting more than 900 people. Dozens of people are continually arriving at the entrance of the camp where the staff, overtaken by the situation, is trying to find solutions. Here, like anywhere else, people in situations of vulnerability and families have priority. Migration also concerns elderly people and their families. They arrive here looking for some rest before, hopefully, going back on the road, sometimes in a wheelchair. For Afghan families, the journey seems to be stopped by an impassable border. Macedonia, under pressure from the European Union, is refusing transit to people from Afghanistan.
The space where we have set up the Ideas Box has allowed children of all origins to come draw and play. However, these children are more asking for tablets than for coloured pencils! Surprisingly today, pencils and felt pens are being used by the adults who are drawing their village in Pakistan, a way to create a link and break down borders.
Ali-Abbas is 8 and is also from Pakistan. For more than a month, he has been with his family in the camp of Eleonas. Boredom has become his daily activity. When we opened the Ideas Box for the first time, a curious Ali-Abbas stayed the whole afternoon playing with games and tablets.
Watching him play with his brother reminds us how important it is in those times of boredom and impatience, to offer activities giving them time to escape their reality for a few hours. This is why, as of tomorrow, we are mobilising our teams of volunteers to organise new activities using the Ideas Box for the children of Eleonas.