Barbed wire. Fences and barbed wire. A cement court surrounded by high fences and barbed wire. A policed metal gate opens up to gravel, concrete, metal containers and barbed wire. A military truck dumps crates of bread on the slab of concrete surrounded by barbed wire – breakfast. Children run around on the gravel, playing on rocks in the confined, fenced in camp. All I see is barbed wire. Surely this is a prison. No? A refugee camp you call it. Hotspot, a prison to some – Syrians, Kurds, Palestinians, Iranians, Pakistanis a refugee camp to others.
I wish you could see their eyes, eyes that light up when lips turn up slowly into a smile. Kind eyes, blue, green, caramel colored eyes that shine. Beautiful brown eyes that glisten in the hazy Greek sun, eyes that tell stories, that look for a way out of the closed in fences, the barbed wire, the suffocating, empty island of Leros. But what did they do to be enclosed in barbed wire? To be policed by the Greek military, removed from society, put in metal containers?
Hotspot. A mental hospital rises above the flat containers enclosed by barbed wire. When you arrive at Hotspot you register as a refugee under the protection of Greece and seek asylum. You will only get it actually if you have nuclear family in Europe. You can’t leave the metal fences, the barbed wire, cement and gravel for 28 days. Blue uniforms stand guard. You share a container with other men – eight per container, two families per container. Your meals are placed on a cement slab in crates, oily cabbage, bread, apples. I walk through the Hotspot and am given apples, pockets full of apples.
Electrical engineers, architects, artists, kick boxing instructors, musicians. I wish you could see their eyes. A man plays an oud, a soulful song, children crowd around on the gravel, eyes close, savoring the beautiful music. Kids sit around on gravel, looking at barbed wire with nowhere to go. An electrical engineer from Syria has been denied asylum for the second time, this is bullshit he says. Indeed, it is bullshit. A well-educated, electrical engineer tries to figure out where to go. He’s not a refugee, he’s an electrical engineer, a son, father, a musician, a football player, a man from Syria. I wish you could see his eyes, light brown eyes, passionate eyes.
How can you reintegrate in society when you are separated from it by barbed wire? When you put the same clothes on every day? When your children have nowhere to play? When you can’t find a job and don’t speak the language? When you are a refugee, stuck on an island? You wait. You wait in the barbed wire, in the Hotspot, at the mercy of the Greek military. You wait for answers, news, hope, asylum, someone who cares, a ferry ticket out, a better life.