“They didn’t help the refugees…they didn’t give us masks…just one soap for two families…just one soap, nothing else.”
Nafissa is from Afghanistan and is currently living in a refugee camp in Athens, Greece. This postcard was recorded over a series of WhatsApp voice messages on 3 May.
Nafissa fled Afghanistan at the age of 16 after being sold to a man linked to the Taliban. She travelled alone through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and then by perilous boat journey to Lesbos, Greece. During this time she met her boyfriend and they now live in a shared container with their three daughters.
Throughout this postcard, Nafissa is unafraid to share her traumatic story. She talks about her Coronavirus worries, how refugee support services had to stop when the virus threatened Greece, and her dreams for a more stable future.
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Despite years of economic instability and an ageing population, Greece has defied expectations with fewer than 3,000 confirmed cases and 146 registered deaths related to COVID-19. The highly restrictive lockdown and mandatory quarantine for arrivals to the country were factors in tackling the virus. There are concerns that testing is low, leaving cases unaccounted for.
The fallout from lockdown means that people living at the overpopulated refugee camps are even more vulnerable. Government services slowed so refugees were unable to access cashcards, health and social services.
There were valid fears that the virus would rip through these populations where tightly packed living conditions are best described as squalid. Pockets of cases occurred in Ritsona and Malakasa camps which led to quarantine. The lack of testing outside of hospital means that the true picture for refugees is difficult to discern.
Organisations such as CRIBS International, are working in Athens to house pregnant woman and their newborn babies. They offer a semblance of normality, safety and calm during those crucial months after birth. As you will hear from the podcast, these are things Nafissa prizes highly.
Charities have seen a big drop in donations due to the pandemic. CRIBS have just launched a campaign, called Stay Home, Safe Family, to raise enough money to continue supporting families like Nafissa’s.