Surviving in Greece: 'What about human rights?'

Like many others in the camp on the island of Lesbos, Ali (22) and his mother Zena (69)* are Afghan refugees. Zena is weak and wheelchair bound with heart and back problems. Ali takes care of her. But now, Zena has been granted asylum and Ali has not. We spoke to Ali about their situation.

Fire in Camp Moria

‘When we arrived in Moria at the end of 2019, it was cold and rainy. We were given a summer tent and had to look out for ourselves. I never expected this situation: no shelter, no heating, no basic human rights.

When Moria burned down months later, I rushed to save my mother and could take only her and the wheelchair. Her dentures were lost. I can’t even get her new dentures, so my mother hasn’t been able to eat normally for a year.’

Nothing happened

‘Initially, there was only one toilet in the new camp. My mother was knocked to the ground in the crowd. At the hospital, they said she had fractured a lumbar vertebra and needed to have a full body scan on the mainland, but she never got it. I have a statement from the hospital saying that my mother must be transferred, but that has not happened either. They don’t care whether you’re sick, pregnant or a newborn baby.

Recently, an NGO set up a small playground for the children in the camp. The kids flew over there... there’s nothing else here for them. Sometimes we get support from an NGO for a while, but then that stops.’

Separated families

‘Now my mother’s asylum application has been granted and mine has been rejected. They think that as a single man I can go back to some parts of Afghanistan or to Turkey. But my mother depends on me, both physically and mentally. Moreover, Afghanistan is not safe, and we suffered a lot in Turkey.

We slept under bridges and in parks there. You have to wait a very long time to apply for asylum there, and in the meantime you’re not entitled to anything, no provision whatsoever. I have seen many people deported from Turkey in handcuffs. They make us suffer and kill our hopes. What about human rights?’

* Due to their vulnerable situation, the names Ali and Zena have been changed.

Stay up-to-date on our international activities

Subscribe to our international newsletter for the latest updates on our work, stories and international projects.
Yes, I’d like to stay up-to-date