Only available on computer
With special gratitude to all people who invested their time in me on the trip. And particularly to those who reviewed the final product:
Mark van Assen, EU correspondent at Algemeen Dagblad
Yousif Doski, protagonist and translator in Greece
Arif, protagonist and translator in Greece
Jann Bilker, excellent editor
Isabella Anglin, critical reader
Merel van der Meulen, critical reader
Marianne Baatz, critical reader
About the author
Perhaps somewhat contrary to expectation, I am a medical student. I am 25 years old and on my way to becoming a humanitarian physician. Before I got accepted into a fast-track medical programme in the Netherlands, I studied at the Amsterdam University College. Besides my focus on medicine, I also got a chance to study Human Rights, Diplomacy and Sociology.
My fascination with these subjects left me divided: Continue in international politics or in medicine? Work I did with Burmese refugees made it clear that medicine would allow me to develop a much closer understanding of the manifestations of high-level politics on the ground. Yet the international political context is still my primary interest. With that in mind, I like to physically travel to the places I find important. In the past, that has included Ethiopia to learn about TB control in rural and nomadic populations and Burma to see medical services for independent Karen fighters. Currently, that is the Greek refugee crisis.
I made this journey through Greece independently, not as a part of any university, newspaper, NGO etc. Over the course of the trip, I received many questions from both friends back home, as well as from people I met on the way, who all seemed genuinely interested in the exact same questions I was trying to answer. How do you cross a border? Do you just walk, take a bus, a car? What does it look like when you arrive? And why does it look that way? What grew from our shared questions was this website.
It would mean a lot to mean to hear from you if you have any thoughts or questions. Just find my email address on the bottom of the page.
How the website was made
Most of how I worked will be clear from the text. I always carried a notebook with me, to scribble down what I learned, both during or after I talked to someone. With regards to historical or political facts, I made sure to double-check everything I learned, either asking colleagues or looking up official statements. And finally, I made sure the website was thoroughly reviewed.
DATA COLLECTION ON THE TRIP
Whenever I talked to someone, I explained what I hoped to do with their stories to them and asked whether it was okay for them to be involved. Quotes are usually paraphrased and most names were altered. The stories from Arif, Yousif, and Omar were reconstructed based on repeated interviews, most of them done after I returned to Holland.
I wasn’t able to reconstruct Nadia’s story in such detail, which is why I decided to leave it out. It’s unfortunate, because now the story severely lacks the female perspective.
As for photos, I only took them when I was explicitly allowed to, the only exceptions being the photos in the train carriages in Thessaloniki and the shop at Hara Hotel. The photos in the train station warrants some explanation: The fact that refugees decided to sleep there despite the danger of being caught made me incredibly curious about the extent of the risk. I consciously decided to trespass, because they had repeatedly needed to in order to find a place to sleep. They faced many more risks doing so that I did.
Photos were only published them when I felt it was safe for the person to be visible. I have plenty of photos, from Omar, Yousif, Nadia, Rasheed, Arif and many others, that I never published, because I can’t oversee the consequences of publishing their photos.
Once I came back to Holland, I puzzled everything I learned together and put it into the context of books, articles, policy papers, reports and other resources. The main framework I use for the critique of CEAS follows the thinking of the Migration Policy Institute (2018), an independent non-profit which also advices the EU. What I regard a great strength of the website, namely that I present with limited understanding of the European context and genuine curiosity, is simultaneously a great weakness. It’s difficult for me to see through the political bias in the stories people tell me and it took me a while to catch on to derivations from official policy, like the cessation of Dublin transfers.
That’s why I decided on a review process. I made sure the whole text was looked at by relevant experts, so I can guarantee a certain degree of legitimacy.
The website itself was built by me and all photos are mine too.
I find it important that the contents of this website is freely available. But the trip carried quite a few expenses. If you want to support the cause and enable a future project, then donations are more than welcome! Find my email address below for further information.
The March I was in Moria was an exceptional month. In an unprecedented breach of European law, Greece decided it was no longer accepting refugees. They couldn’t take the influx anymore and political tensions with Turkey had come to a climax. Everyone who arrived via the sea was gathered in this port. For nearly two weeks, the people you see lived in this fenced off area, using the toilets you see in the back, drying their laundry on the railings.
The intention was to send all of them back to Turkey without a legal process. Instead, they were transferred to the mainland and detained. The last update I received from a lawyer who works on one of these cases, was that the violation Greece was about to commit was so severe, that legally, there was no way they could be sent back. And yet he had no idea what would happen to them.
LAW AND POLICY
I lent my camera to kids I met a couple of times on my trip, and ended up with some fun self-portraits. This one was taken in Volvi camp.