The recent decision of the Council of State (StE) dictating to freeze the construction of the Closed Controlled Structure in Vastria, Lesvos due to the absence of an environmental study does not come as a surprise. The decision reasserts the concerns that had already been risen by civil society organisations including Lesbos Solidarity, and have been blatantly ignored by the competent authorities. Already since the announcement for the location of the structure, made with the consent of some elected bodies of the local authorities of Lesvos, Lesvos Solidarity among others, had emphatically pointed out the risks to the environment and had expressed its strong opposition to the construction of the prison like super structure which would put the life and dignity of people in danger.
The decision highlighted once more the arrogance, the lies of the competent local, national and European bodies and the complete absence of appropriate programming. "It [ie the construction of Vastria] meets all legal requirements, environmental conditions and specifications" we were told by the newly appointed Minister of Migration, conditions whose absence the Council of the State highlighted in its decision. It is not the first time that these authorities undermine the obligation to protect and respect legal norms.
The competent national and European authorities have repeatedly justified the violations, omissions and neglect witnessed in Kara Tepe to the fact that the structure is temporary until the opening of the new site. Three years after the fire in Moria and after the decision of the Council of the State, our students tell us: "We often have no water at all. This week we had no water from Sunday to Tuesday [...] They give us only 2 bottles of drinking water a day and for that we have to stand in two queues under the hot sun for a significant period of time." This runs contrary to the at least 15 litres of water per day per person that should be made available in emergency situations ( ie not in a permanent reception facility), dictated by international standards which the Greek and European authorities choose to ignore.
Despite declarations for the improvement of the living conditions, our students reveal a nightmarish situation dominated by constant surveillance often accompanied by ill-treatment by some officials, uncertainty about the future, the collapse of a fair asylum system, violations of the obligations for special reception conditions and the protection of vulnerable groups. "With two rejections they don't give us anything, neither food nor water" says a 16-year-old student of ours who wants to go to school, do sports, live through his childhood, but his dreams shattered once again in Lesbos. "In order to go out for activities, our parents must accompany us. How can they accompany me when they have to go beg for food and water?' he continues. "I didn't feel safe in Kara Tepe" says another student who now resides outside the structure. "When there are fights between the refugees, the police sit back and watch until there is a serious injury and the episode ends," another student tells us. "I went to register for the school, but they told me that the registrations are closed," says another student who is a minor. " I went to school. We did an hour lesson and then we had to wait 4 hours for the next one" another tells us. "Often when we return to the site we are not allowed to enter, not because we came after the time permitted but because a parent had to come to the gate to pick us up" another child tells us.
Some children told us that they perceive the mistreatment as punitive: "I think they are cutting off our water so that we don't use it recklessly" said one student; "when we arrived, they took us to the so-called 'quarantine' inside the site where there is no infrastructure or agencies nor are any activities conducted. If our parents don't accept to reside with other families, they leave us there for a long period of time," another child told us.
Today more than 3004 men, women and children are trapped in the closed controlled structure of Kara Tepe. The children who are there, instead of healing the wounds of war, violence and forced migration, are again subjected to violence with irreparable consequences for their psyche and development. "I don't want to participate in the activities that take place inside, it makes me depressed to be there all the time" a minor student told us. "I don't think about the future. They told us they would transfer us to the mainland so I'm waiting. Once this is over then I will see what I want and can do", said another.