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LESVOS 2018 

By Stephen Dover 

At three times its intended capacity, living conditions in Greece’s Moria camp deteriorated to such an extent that the camp’s Kurdish population self-evacuated. With nowhere to go, they made their way to Mytilene, sleeping in parks or on the streets. Fleeing ethnic violence, roughly 300 Kurdish refugees sought shelter on a football pitch for almost three months before being relocated to Athens.

When unprecedented numbers of refugees arrived to Lesvos in the Spring of 2015 a hotspot mechanism was implemented, with Moria camp soon becoming the most infamous of these hotspots. Essentially, a hotspot mechanism requires formal camps to allow for processing and potential deportation. Another practice has been to impose geographic restrictions, meaning asylum seekers may spend up to a year in the hotspot region. While this may appear like a structured approach, the lack of a coherent European migration policy has further diluted institutional responsibility and intensified issues such as long-term integration, radicalisation, as well as people’s mental and physical well-being.

After several days, many Kurdish refugees had relocated to either the volunteer-run camp PIKPA, or the House of Humanity centre, which operated out of a sports facility. I was present there with one of several grass-roots NGOs that assisted with distributing water, food, and clothing. These images cover the initial arrival and the uncertainty that followed.

Among the many problems with the asylum process is that the authorities do not distinguish between arrivals from the same country of origin. Ideally, this is to prevent discrimination. In practice, however, it means asylum seekers from different sides of a civil war are forced to live beside each other. ‘We came to escape these people, and find here the same’ a community representative told me. In Syria, his hand had been mutilated as punishment for smoking. 

The events following the establishment of this emergency accommodation revealed many of the structural absurdities that form the European migrant crisis. A constant state of fear does not allow for people to truly escape the conflict. Instead, custodial detention facilities create a deep sense of hopelessness further compounding perpetual instability. While those who left Moria each had their own reason for doing so, as they had when they initially left for Europe, claims of targeted violence and acts of self-determination were absorbed back into the architecture of Europe’s border control.

Stephen Dover is a freelance photographer from Dublin Ireland. He has a Masters in Geopolitics and The Global Economy from UCD and is interested in nationalism and identity formation. He can be contacted through stephendover@live.ie