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April 21, 2016

Why I’m Fired Up over an Article about Refugee Babies in a Detention Centre who are being Denied Adequate Nutrition.

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As an independent volunteer who has stood at the entrance of Vial Detention Centre with friends asking, arguing and pleading with Greek Authorities over the distribution of baby milk formula, I was excited when The Guardian published an exposé on this situation yesterday.

In fact, for the purposes of full disclosure, my initial reaction was to fist pump the air and utter a “F*ck Yeah!”.

This might sound like an odd response to have but please let me explain.

Since returning two and a half weeks ago from my second week long stint of volunteering in Chios in the last nine weeks, I have been in daily contact with my friends, both refugees and volunteers on the island. And all of these people are desperate for change.

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Like me, they have witnessed (and some have experienced firsthand) conditions in Vial that we believe violate the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular the following concerns have been discussed:

1. A lack of clarity around the set up of Vial. Specifically, who is responsible for the overall running of the detention centre and who should be contacted with concerns?

2. Criticism that minimum requirements in terms of the provision of the basics of life notably—water, formula for babies, milk for infants and food—are not being met.

3. Fears that the maximum capacity of a centre (1200 persons) has been breached repeatedly.

4. The lack of a physical presence of security staff within the centre. All Police and Army personnel are stationed outside the centre fences.

5. Ongoing questions as to the current legal process for applying for asylum in Europe after the EU-Turkey deal which came into effect on March 20th, 2016.

6. Questions around the maximum duration that refugees can be held within a detention centre. Some of my friends have been held for 30 days and have yet to be given an asylum interview date.

Our refugee friends say that their voices are ignored. The parents we are in contact with say that they can no longer bear to listen to their children cry with hunger. Our volunteer led attempts at lobbying support to improve the conditions for refugees in Vial and possibly other Detention centres within Greece have been met with mixed success. It is much the same for the NGO groups.

The number of damning reports on the current situation in Vial and the wider context of Greece contacts written by NGO groups are growing but it seems that little has been done to bring improvements.

Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council was recently quoted as saying, “The way the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented at the moment is a disgrace to Europe,” he added. “We would never have accepted this for our own children—and we cannot accept it for others.”

When The Guardian broke the story about Aylan Kurdi last September, it bought about a public outcry. The power of the media to shine a spotlight on a crisis situation and bring about a change for the better has been proven. Whilst the outcome of this article is yet to be determined for myself and my friends, it is one step closer toward a step to addressing Human Rights violations and a return to human decency. In my mind, this deserves a fist pump and a “F*ck Yeah” if ever anything did.

Ways to help:

1. Please share the relevant news stories and your thoughts with friends on social media and in personal conversations.

2. Write to your local political officials and ask them to speak up regarding the detention of refugees, particularly the detention of infants. Here is a link to help contact elected officials.

3. Join the twitter campaign using the hashtag #ChiosBabiesCrisis.

4. Go to the Amnesty International site and sign the pledge to speak out for Refugee Rights.

Here is the latest report from Amnesty International that references the situation in Chios.

5. Donate to help fund volunteers who are already working in open camps and are available to help in Vial when they are granted access through Nurture Project International.

Link to the latest report on Chios.

Fund for child refugees—administered by UAREUK.

Please use reference “Fund for Child Refugees Chios”

In the United Kingdom?

1. Send by paypal to [email protected]
2. By bank transfer/ pay into:

Account Name: UAREUK
Bank: HSBC
Sort Code: 40-47-26
Account: 42663929

Outside of the United Kingdom:

1. Send by paypal to [email protected]
2. Send direct donations from outside of the UK to:
Account Name: UAREUK
Bank: HSBC
BIC/ Swift Code: MIDLGB22
IBAN: GB49MIDL40472642663929

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Author: Vanessa Marjoribanks

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Images: Courtesy of Author

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