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21 Jul 15 28 Nov 16

Greece: Testimonies from the Kara Tepe refugee camp

Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are currently stranded in precarious conditions across several Greek islands, despite repeated calls since December 2014 by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to Greek authorities and the EU to address the lack of reception capacity.

Jeilan and her daughter, from Syria

“I am here with my husband and my four-year-old daughter. We had to leave Aleppo because of the bombing. We ran for our lives. We did not bring anything with us, we left every-thing behind.

“We came from Turkey by sea, at night. It was very dangerous, the wind was strong and the sea was rough. My children would not stop crying. It was a small boat, about four metres long. There were 50 people inside, not protected.

Arriving in Greece by boat

“When we arrived at the beach, we found we had to walk 5.5 km with our children. There was no one to take us and the cars would not stop. First we went to the coastguard to get registered. We gave our names and they told us we would get our papers in a day or two, and then we could leave for Athens.

“There are four other families with us – 10 or 11 people altogether. We have been here for five days, and are still waiting for our papers.

“When we went to the police station yesterday to collect the papers, they told us that they did not have our names. They had made a mistake. The police officer shouted at me, “Go, just go”. He gave no explanation, and did not say when we should come back.

“We are staying in a dirty tent. There are no mattresses to sleep on, just cardboard boxes. There are no blankets, nothing, just dirt.

“We don’t even want to go near the toilets. The water is not clean, we cannot wash.

One piece of bread

“The food is not good. For breakfast, we have one piece of bread shared between three people.

“One woman arrived today with her two small babies. Their clothes are all wet, but they don’t have any more clothes. She has been asking where she can find some milk for her baby, but nobody gives her milk, so she will have to buy it from somewhere.

“We don’t see any help provided for us here in Greece. We don’t want to stay here.

“I can’t believe that I am living in such conditions with my family. I used to be a teacher and my husband was an accountant. Look at us now! This is inhumane.”


Leila and her family, from Afghanistan


Sitting by the fire, Leila is preparing some tea for her husband and children. They arrived at Kara Tepe camp seven days ago and are living in a small tent that they bought in a local shop.

“Life is very difficult here for us. We don’t have enough food and we are almost out of money. There are no cooking facilities, so we cook food and make tea on an open fire.

There are many people from Afghanistan in this camp and all of us we just want to get our papers and leave the island.

This is not a place for humans to stay.

I want to thank the Greek coastguard for saving our lives. We came in a very small boat that was full of people. It was very windy, the sea was rough and the boat capsized. Thank God the coastguard came and saved us.

I am thankful we are all alive.”

Find out more on MSF's work with refugees