20 November 2018

Interview: Staying in the EU Hotspot Vial as unaccompanied minor

Hassan [1] arrived to Chios as unaccompanied minor in May 2017 and was transferred to his brother in Germany at the beginning of November 2018. The following interview was conducted on 16/11/2018 by Equal Rights Chios via phone.

Could you describe where you stayed in Chios and describe the accommodation?

When I arrived to Chios from Turkey in May 2017, I was seventeen years old. I was placed into one of the containers in the last part of section B, container 38. This was the safe zone for unaccompanied minors in Vial, the minors’ container. I stayed in this container until January 2018. The situation there was ridiculous. The container is a normal container, divided into two parts, rooms let’s say. In the part of the container where I stayed, we were three, after some time, when there was pressure on the camp, we became more. By pressure I mean many new arrivals who were stuck on the island. So then, we were about four or five in my part, about thirteen in total in the container. All boys of course. I did not have any mattress beneath me, just one sleeping back for each of us, no cover or pillow. We did not have a heating in this container, there was air conditioning, but for all air conditioners in the container we had just one remote control and the remote control was with the police. So, when the police officers on shift were nice, we stayed in a warm place. When the police officers on shift were bad, and they mostly were, it was cold. So, in winter, most of the time it was cold. Nobody informed us why we were staying in the camp, and other minors in the shelter, in a house in the city. We thought that this was because we are the bad ones. From what we understood from the NGOs around in the camp, it was because we are considered drug addicts or criminals. But we had even thirteen years old staying with us sometimes. This is just what we understood from around, from rumors. Really, I don’t know how they decided that we were the bad ones who had to stay in the camp, and others not. Even when we asked why we have to stay in Vial, and others not, nobody explained to us. After some time in Vial, you will have to become some sort of criminal, to stand up for yourself, in order to survive in the camp.From time to time, a woman came, she was shouting at us and accused us to make problems in the camp. Even though the camp is not paradise, it’s not a place to host minors. She came only two times in the seven months that I stayed there, one other time she sent her replacement. The NGOs who were responsible for the minors used to threaten us, they told us that whatever the lady would say to us, we should not reply anything, because if she wants to she can put us in jail. Later we understood that this woman was the public prosecutor who was responsible for all the minors on the island. We have heard later from other minors that she was nice with other minors who were not staying in Vial. However, the minors in Vial were treated like criminals, so she treated us in the same way. The treatment of the minors who were waiting for family reunification was not very different from the treatment of the minors who were staying in Greece. Most minors waiting for family reunification were staying in the shelter. I don’t know why I was not, even though I was waiting for family reunification to Germany. In any case, the procedure of the ones staying in Greece was much faster. I stayed in the minors’ container in Vial from May 2017 until January 2018. Then, they kicked me out of the minors’ container because I was not minor anymore. So, they told me, get your stuff and get out of this area. I tried to explain to them, that yesterday I was minor, today I am not, but you cannot put me on the street. They however did. I did not have a tent or a container to stay. So, I found some other refugees in the camp who hosted me in their container. People from the NGOs used to respect me and treat me nicely, because I could communicate with them in English. But as soon as I turned eighteen, they treated me differently, some did not even say hi to me anymore. I stayed almost eleven months in the camp after I had become adult. I heard that after I had become adult the situation in the minors’ container became better because an international organization had brought a washing machine. We used to wash our clothes with the hand. Concerning the food, minors eat the same as the others in the camp, it is ready portions which come in a plastic box. We had to queue forever in order to get our food. The most for the breakfast, about two to three hours, and for the other meals, the lunch and dinner about one hour. The food quality is not good. More than once we had found worms in the beans. Because the food was disgusting, I swear it was disgusting, we used to not eat lunch and dinner. We just took the breakfast, eat it in the night, and then sleep the whole day. Sometimes, mostly during Ramadan, no food was left for us by the time it was our turn. After Ramadan, it also happened that we would not even get water because it was finished by the time we arrived. In any case, in summer 2017, only 1,5 liter was given to two people, that is 750 ml for each person. We were asked to drink the water from the tanks, but this water is not drinkable. When the truck with the water and the food arrived, police and EASO used to take water for them first. After this, they give the water to the refugees. Police and EASO also took breakfast from the truck first. Sometimes, nothing was left for us when we arrived, but they always took their food first. One time, the minors’ container next to hours burned down. This was because of electricity. Good that it happened during the day, otherwise people would have died probably.

Could you describe your daily life?

Every day at 5 am in the morning, the police used to storm into the minors’ container, waking us up in a very brutal way. They could have waked us up normally, but they entered in a brutal way. They asked us to give them the card identifying us as minors, in order to show that we were actually allowed to sleep the minor’s sector of the camp. I was going to school more than others, two days a week, plus one other day in a center organized by an independent NGO. As there are so many minors, not everybody can go every day. I was only allowed to go for two days a week. The other days, I had to stay in the camp because I did not have any means to leave the camp which is far from the city. The bus is organized by the NGO, and it is only to go to school. For the general UNHCR bus, there was no special arrangement for minors. So, you can only get a place in the bus if you are physically very strong in order to push. As I am not, I had to stay in Vial on the days that I did not go to school.

Could you describe the situation among the minors, was there any problems?

The situation in the camp was very stressful. Mainly also because of the promises that the NGOs made to us about transfer for family reunification. This is why many minors were using drugs. In the beginning without knowing, other refugees gave it to them, take this pill to be calm. After some time, they get used to it, and many take it on a daily basis. So, what they take is Marihuana, or Lyrica, Bobli, Xanex, or Tramadol, and other medication for epilepsy.Many of the minors also had razors, to cut themselves. This was also because many asked to see a psychologist but were denied. The procedure to see psychologist was this for minors: You cut yourself. After this, you are transferred to the hospital, to get stitches. Then, the police comes and puts you in jail for two or three days. After this, you can see a psychologist and they make many promises about transferring you and getting you out of the camp. But this does usually not happen, it is promises. There was one famous incident were all the minors got on the roofs of the containers, they demanded to be transferred or to get out of the camp. The police was very brutal with them, and then, they cut themselves. I have heard about some sexual exploitation of minors by other refugees in the camp. But not among the minors, I didn’t hear anything like this.We could not talk to anybody else, no social worker, nobody. Many times we were given wrong information by the people from NGOs, about transfer dates or something like this. And promises.

Could you describe the access to medical services?

Whatever sickness you have, they will give you Panadol, pain killer. For everything, headache, fever, cancer, Panadol. There was no procedure to go to the hospital or see a doctor. The procedure was: Wait until the minor was close to die, then put him in a police bus to take him to the hospital. When you arrive to the hospital, they will treat you at some point. But it is very difficult alone. Sometimes, volunteers from an independent NGO would accompany us to the hospital, they always ended up fighting with the hospital so that we can see a doctor. It was very difficult. Of course, the Greek people would always be treated first, after the refugees, no matter how bad the condition would be. In the hospital, there is two different lines, one for refugees and one for Greek people. Some Greek people would feel disgusted by refugees, they avoid sitting next to refugees, and sometimes they even leave the room. Is there anything you would like to add concerning the situation in Vial? Once, three adults from Afghanistan stormed into the safe zone for the minors, they beat us up. They were doing this under drugs, they were drunk and accidentally hit a minor who was walking around in the camp, and then they started fighting. The minor understood that they were drunk, so he returned to the minors zone. They followed him and stormed our place. We went to complain to the police, but nothing happened.

Could you describe your arrival to Germany?

In Germany, they treat minors better than Merkel, they treat us like babys. I am in Hannover [2] now, in the north of Germany, in a Heim. My brother is in another city, close to München. He picked me up from the airport but until now I don’t know if am allowed to stay with him already. I think later. Last week, I had my interview here in Germany. This was different, it was private and confidential. And they gave me water and nuts. Just the interpreter and the caseworker was in the room, it was private. In Vial, it was different. When they call you for an interview in Vial, you have to enter the administration area and usually wait very long. The interview room is not private, people come in and out. I did not feel safe to talk there. Also, they don’t give you water inside the administration, but when you get out to take water from your container, it is very difficult to enter again, because the police does not let you in again. My friend is laughing at me, he listens me talking on the phone, no way to compare Vial with Germany.

Untitled Item

[1] Name amended.

[2] All cities amended.

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