Five episodes of BBC World Service’s The Compass programme are examining the long-term impact of the world migration crisis. The first two programmes in the series are available to listen to on demand.
One of the sites in the second programme will be familiar to readers of Focus on Refugees. The camp at EKO Gas Station was visited by the twelve women from churches across Britain and Ireland in the recent CTBI delegation that spent time with refugees in Greece. Between their visit at the end of May and now, that camp has been cleared.
The EKO petrol station near the Macedonian border looks perfectly ordinary now, but less than a month ago it was home to 2,000 people. Children played skipping games in a forecourt crowded with tents, a burger stand served falafel while a volunteer doctor from Birmingham treated war wounds and everyday ailments and toddlers learned the alphabet by the working petrol pumps.
The programme also looks at the situation in the small village of Halkeioson the island of Chios (an Aegean island). Previously with a population of 600, the hillside village now hosts “a camp run by the Greek authorities for more than 1,000 people consisting of families, single men and unaccompanied minors all living together” in the old Vial aluminium plant.
Conditions in Vial are grim. There have been fights, attempted suicides and at least one rape. One of the few distractions is a stroll through the fields to the village, but even doing this has caused issues for local people.
Two more camps are being run in the main town on the island of Chios.
Two young volunteers have opened an informal school for the many children here, in a former restaurant. The first thing they learned was how to walk in a crocodile, calling out “Good morning” in Greek to everyone they pass. Nick Millet, one of the founders, says the aim was to bring structure into the children’s lives, as some of them have not been to school for more than a year. They are being taught by four primary school teachers from Syria, who are also empowered by the project.