Sindos is a camp located on a back-road near the village of Sindos, about 15km from Thessaloniki, which started around 20 days ago. It is an industrial area, which has a lot of abandoned factories. The camp is inside a closed perimeter which includes a warehouse and an open area made of concrete. There is no vegetation, only a little shade by one of the walls of the warehouse, and the wall on the other side has a 3metre high pile of rubbish which was there before it started being used as a camp. There are no spaces for children, who play with abandoned materials taken from the surroundings and the rubbish dump which is next to the warehouse.
The Greek military are present all day and night, and are responsible for the camp. The greek police are responsible for the entrance. Several NGOs are coming daily to the camp: Save the children (leisure activities for children), SAMS (medical team), Stop War Worldwide (continuous presence and translation, although currently their entrance is forbidden by the police, who declare that this prohibition is an order from above), SCM (Supply Chain Management), IRC, UNHCR and a greek NGO called "YPATI ARMOSTIA". A new NGO, IMC (International Medical Corps) seems to be arriving soon to the camp. Contacts inside the camp told us during the week 13-19 June that their intention is to take over the "civil" control of the camp but we have not managed to confirm this and we have not met people from IMC yet.
From saturday the 4th to wednesday the 8th, we have had no problems accessing the camp after showing ID the first day. At first, they were a bit worried about us beeing journalists, but after showing our health professional cards they let us in. On thursday the 9th, the police told us we could not enter if we were not part of any of those mentioned organizations. After a long talk with them, with the military inside the camp, and a call to the Ministry of Interior, we were finally allowed in. We think this decision was influenced by the fact that families we knew from the previous days came out to see us. On the 9th June, one of the NGOs has told us that a curfew has been set up in the camp, meaning that people can’t leave the camp before 9h and after 21h. Since then, we have had problems entering the camp. On Wednesday 15th we arrived with some items to distribute and the police did not let us to enter. Around 30 people came outside with us while one of us was taken by the police to talk with the Army. After some discussion, the Army let us in but did not allow us to use the office that NGOs are using to prepare the distribution of items. On Saturday 18th, the police didn´t want to let us in, but in the end they sent us to talk to the Army again and they allowed our entrance only because we needed to finish the distibution work. We arrived at 14h and we were ordered to leave the camp before 19 pm. That same day, we encountered a group of lawyers who were not allowed to enter the camp by the police.
We have been told by people in the camp that there are aproximately 700 people living here, although UNHCR numbers are 568 people (on 3rd June). Most of them have come from Idomeni camp. The majority of them are kurds, coming from the north of Syria; we know two families of Iraqis. Every tent has a card that identifies the number of people living in it, and specifies the number of children under-6months, the number of children between 6 and 12 months, between 1 to 12 years, and the number of adults.
- Army tents of around 12 square metres. Most of the tents are inside the warehouse; only around 20 tents are located outside.
- Some families have set up their own tents, both because there weren’t enough military tents, and also because some extended families were put together in the same military tent and they were too overcrowded and needed more space.
- There are mosquito nets at the entry of every tent.
- There are carpets for the floor, and new ones given by an NGO - A drop in the ocean.
- Some families have beds inside the tents. We are not sure why some tents have several beds and others have none. One person told us that when they arrived, each tent had a bed in it, but we have seen tents that don’t have any.
Drinkable water: At the begining, in theory, they were receiving 1 bottle of 1,5 litres per person. But in practice several people have told us they received four bottles of 1,5 litres per tent, independently of the number of people in each one (for example, one family with 8 members (6 minors and 2 adults) would only have a total of 6 litres per day), and one of the camp coordinators have told us that they are receiving 1 bottle of 1,5 litres every two persons. On Saturday 11th we observed lunch distribution (which includes water) and we realized that more bottles were being given. On Saturday 18th a refugee that has set up a school in the camp told us that refugees themselves talked to the Army in order to receive more water and now they recieve two bottles of 1,5 litres per person, one in the lunch distribution and one in the dinner distribution.
Non-drinkable water: two water tanks are refilled every day, for the supply of 12 showers and four sinks. A lot of people have told us this is not enough. On Saturday 19th we find out that for the last 2 days non drinkable water had finished at 19pm in the evening and they didn´t refill the tanks till 1pm the next day (18 hours without non drinkable water).
During this time, people are using drinkable water to wash their hands, and they cannot refresh themselves, take a shower or wash their clothes during the 18 hours that there is no more non-drinkable water. Also, due to the limited number of showers and water, the majority of people in the camp do not manage to have a shower with warm water.
- Three cooked meals per person per day, brought by a catering paid by the Government. Said to be very repetitive and mainly consistent of pasta, white rice with a little tomato sauce on top, or potatos. Breakfast is one croissant and individual packages of orange juice. The last visit we made some families said the quality improved a little, but this has been mostly said by women who have the possibility to cook their own meal. On Sunday 5th, oranges and bread were given for each tent, brought by an NGO (A drop in the ocean), but this is not on a daily basis. On June 10th, we had the opportunity to see the food people recieved for dinner: one small piece of omelette made of eggs and potatos and a glass of milk. Since then, we have seen and tried the food that people recieve several times and, aside from the amount, which is not enough for a person, we can affirm that quality is very low. One person living in the camp told us on Saturday 18th that there are people not taking any food at all from the food distribution and that the majority use this food as the basis to cook their own dishes: "it is soldier’s food, and we are not soldiers here, that is what they do not understand", this person told us. He also said that they have asked for a kitchen, for the material to build a place to cook for themselves but so far no response has been given. Food is distributed in a tent located outside the barrack; there are two people from the militarity distributing the food and the rest (around seven people) are refugees themselves. People told us that the two military men distributing the food fight all the time between each other, to the point that refugees themselves have had to intervene to avoid physical harm.
- There are no specific meals for people with chronic diseases (diabetic, hypertensive, chronic kidney disease, or other situations).
- They are not receiving any special products during Ramadan; on June 10th, we knew that the NGO A Drop in the Ocean brought food in the afternoon: two tomato, two cucumber, pit bread and some dates.
- No regular clothes supply. We only know about individual cases beeing helped this way and a distribution of underwear on Friday 17th by an NGO we were not able to confirm. People have told us that they need bras for the women, pijamas so they can change clothes from day to night, and summer clothes, as the heat is increasing and will continue during the summer.
- We have seen different situations between families: some can change clothes from day to night, and from one day to the other, while others have to sleep with the same clothes from the day and have a poorer aspect.
- Some children don’t have shoes, as they might have broken, not having any possibility to buy others; some children are wearing much smaller or much bigger shoes than what they might need.
Hygiene and sanitation: They have received two bottles of shampoo per tent since they arrived in the camp (one distributed by the military the first day and three days later one ditributed by A Drop in the Ocean). The teacher estimates that, if you use the bottle for cleaning yourself and washing clothes, it could last two weeks maximum. Washing powder was brought on the 6th June by A drop in the ocean. Another NGO has brought domestic washing machines on the 7th June, but after some hours they were not installed and then they disappeared and we haven´t seen them again.
- Chemical toilets: 22. On Saturday 17th the teacher told us that these kind of toilets are not appropiate for the uses of the people in the camp: they get very dirty very quickly (people cannot sit in the toilet so they climb on it): turkish toilets would have been better in every aspect. Elder people who can´t climb on to the sides of the toilet have a lot of problems to use them and not get dirty.
- Showers: 12
- Three metres high rubbish dump almost all along one side of the warehouse. On Saturday 17th the teacher told us that people get wood from inside this rubbish dump to prepare fires to cook for themselves.
- Regular waste removal: Initially we are told the lorry comes everyday, but on Saturday 17th we find out that regular waste removal is every 3-4 days.
- Self-organised cleaning by areas inside the warehouse. People have never been given any tools for cleaning, and no-one comes to clean the warehouse. Several people tell us that if someone gives them the tools and detergent to clean, they will do it themselves.
SAMS is responsible for the health attention in this camp. They arrived on saturday the 4th of June. During ramadan, their timetable is 15-22h.
- They seem to have a big medication supply, but they have told us they are not authorised to use IV or IM drugs, so in case of an emergency their capacity is limited until the ambulance arrives.
- Referrals are a big problem. They have not received any instructions from the Ministry, and they have not coordinated with any hospitals for the moment. On Thursday the 9th June they referred 4 people to Hyppocratio Hospital, and three of them did not receive attention and were sent back for different reasons
- There is no paediatrician for the moment (but it doesn´t seem like there will be).
- They don´t cover mental health attention.
C) Education, leisure and daily activities
- The greek government is not providing any kind of formal education in the camp for the moment, neither for children nor for adults.
- There is nothing to do in the camp. Adults play cards, use their phones, make tea, talk in groups and walk around the area (industrial roads in the middle of nowhere). There aren´t any organised leisure activities for adults for the moment. Children play with rubbish, a few balls that are in the camp and a skipping rope. In the mornings, from 10 till 13:30h, Save the children organises a safe space for children to play.
- A syrian english teacher has just started english lessons for adults and teenagers, from 20 to 24h every day.
- For the moment, Save the Children aren’t planning to organise anything else for children; maybe in 2-3 months, they will see about organising a proper school: they have built a space at the back of the camp which is tittled "Mother Baby Area" which may or may not host a school in the future. On the 9th June we discovered three 12 year-old girls had organised a small school for younger children.
- SCM tells us they have a plan to organise a school in the next few weeks, but it hasn´t started yet.
D) Reallocation, reunification and asylum
- Information: People say they have not received any information about their reallocation, family reunification or asylum process. They don’t know whether they will go to Europe or will be sent back to Turkey or to their countries, and how long this process will take. They continually ask when the UN will come to the camp.
- During at least the first three weeks, they did not receive any information on the pre-registration process, no-one came to the camp to explain the process and the police don´t know anything about it either.
- On Saturday 18th, the teacher told us that the UN had visited the camp, but they did not explain anything to the people. They asked questions about the conditions in the camp and he told them what he knew about the pre registration process. According to the teacher’s account, UNHCR people responded that he knew everything already and did not explain anything more to people.
- On saturday 18th we find out about the situation of Iraqis regarding the pre-registry. The lawyers tell us that there is a deadline for Iraqis to apply for relocation, one of the three options of the pre registration process (the others are applying for asylum in Greece and family reunification, which is very restrictive – see below). The inclusion of Iraqis, together with Sirians, in the relocation program depends on the ratio of Iraquis’ asylum claims accepted in EU countries (which needs to be 75% or more). As this ratio is decreasing, the European Commission, the institution which modelled the relocation program, has put a deadline for Iraqis to apply for it: 30th of June. At Sindos Frakapor, nobody knew about this. We called a representative of the UNHCR and she told us that they are trying to speed up the registration of Iraqis but that they have accepted that, given the amount of people being registered per day (500-600 people), there will be Iraqis left out because there is not enough time to register them all. One of the problems she mentioned that prevents the registration process to speed up is the computer program of the Greek police, which can only register 500-600 people per day maximum.
- Even though they are trying to speed up the pre-registration of Iraqis, she tells us off the board that there is only a verbal commitment from the European Commission to take into account for relocation the Iraqis who have done pre-registration before the 1st July. There is no written agreement about this, so it remains to be seen if all the Iraqis who preregister before the 30th June but haven´t had their first assylum interview manage to apply for relocation.
- This UNHCR representative told us that the most important thing for everyone is that people remain calm and don´t panic, to avoid violence in the camps. This is the reason why she asked us not to give information to people regarding the pre-registration process. She used the same argument to justify the UNHCR not giving information to people.
- Also, she told us that they have been lobbying and doing advocacy at the EU level for the past year for Afghanis and Iraqis to be able to apply for relocation (Afghanis have not been able to since the relocation programme started, and Iraqis have this deadline).
- Regarding family reunification, it is restricted: documented parents in an EU country can bring their minor children, and the other way around (only minors?); documented husbands or wifes can bring their partners and minor children; but reunification does not apply to brothers, sisters or any other familiar linkages, unless the person in Greece demonstrates with papers that he or she depends on his or her relative to survive. Steki lawyers told us that this dependency is very difficult to demonstrate legally. If that is not possible, the person can apply for relocation, and her family linkages may be taken into account. But the problem with relocation is that, even though you can choose among a list of countries, there is no obligation for the state to comply with your preferrences regarding destination; moreover, if you refuse the destination that the program offers, you cannot apply again for relocation. This was narrated by Steki lawyers and they told us that they wanted to reconfirm this information.
Wifi in the camp was installed byan NGO, NetHope, during the 13-19 June week, and it began to work on Friday 17th. This could be important for people’s chances to get a Skype interview in which they get the date for the asylum interview directly (without having to wait for the UNHCR people to come to the camp, give them their identification bracelets, take them to Thessaloniki to register and wait until they get an sms with the date for the first assylum interview). However, several people in different places (Sindos Frakapor, Eko Station) have told us that Skype numbers never work, and that it is extremely difficult to contact and get and the interview this way.