“We are very sad to announce that due to the recent EU-Turkey agreement, our project in Lesvos (Greece) has been cancelled. This decision comes after careful consideration, and in conversation with our partners on the Greek island (Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa) and our donors (One Refugee Child). Unfortunately after the EU-Turkey agreement came into effect, the Mayor of Mytilene announced that the Pikpa camp, which has been running for three and a half years, needs to be evacuated because of the new measures dictated by this deal. This decision poses an end to the self-organised accommodation spaces for migrants and refugees in Greece.
This international agreement aims at stopping the flow of migrants and refugees across the Aegean Sea, but there is a real concern with the lack of protection measures put in place before the EU agreed to this. We strongly hope that new safeguards will soon be added to this agreement, in order to avoid any further human rights violations.
We express our full support to the volunteers of Pikpa, who are now doing all they can to make sure that these rights are not violated – especially for the people that have been evacuated from Pikpa. If you would like to follow their updates please follow their Facebook page.”
The team of CatalyticAction
The refugee crisis has been widely covered in the media in the past couple of years with Lesvos, Greece, gaining significant attention as a key site for entry to the EU. Many migrants and refugees are travelling hundreds and thousands of miles across land and sea to reach safety in Europe. They travel with the hope of finding security for themselves and their families. Lesvos, which is close to the Turkish coast, now plays host to people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Morocco and Pakistan (predominantly) – as they flee from war, instability and poverty.
Out of the total arrivals of refugees and migrants to Greece, by sea, 59% of people passed through Lesvos. In January 2016, around 35,000 people arrived on the island’s shores – out of whom 34% were children, 21% women and 45% men. The citizens of Lesvos have been very proactive in organising support for the refugees.
PIKPA is the only open refugee camp in Mytilene, Lesvos, and has become an autonomous space run by volunteers. They believe that borders should be open and that no human should be labelled ‘illegal’ – their objective being to stand alongside the refugees whilst working to raise awareness of human rights violations. The camp, which opened three years ago, is being managed on the principle of solidarity and hosts some of the most vulnerable people. It provides shelter and hospitality but no registration – offering food, clothes, medical assistance, hygiene kits, and other forms of social support. In collaboration with Social Kitchen, the camp also distributes between 1,500 and 2,000 meals a day.
CatalyticAction began to collaborate with PIKPA towards the end of 2015 in order to design an open, public recreational space in the centre of the camp. Recreational spaces, or more widely public spaces, play a fundamental role in the social life of communities. Public spaces can be used by children, adults and elders. Public spaces have therefore the capacity to bring communities and different groups together by providing public facilities that can trigger communal activities or simply a space for personal leisure.
With this project we aim at creating a space that has the qualities of a public space and that can therefore trigger a variety of activities to happen. Children’s games will be included as well as recreational facilities for adults and elders. The space will also allow educational activities to happen such as outdoor theatre and cinema; an outdoor space for gathering (for daily activities such as community/family dinners, etc.). Materials will be locally sourced through actively engaging local businesses such as artisans, retailers, etc. When possible, recycled materials will be prioritised.
The design guidelines for this project are:
The implementation phase will be carried out using a participatory approach that will engage local residents, refugees and volunteers from PIKPA and from national and international universities.
Once the physical components of the project will be implemented in PIPKA, CatalyticAction together with the volunteers in PIKPA and other potential organisations will start recreational and educational programs to be organised in the new space provided. Nevertheless, organised activities will be organised in order to still allow flexibility of use throughout the day.