We have struggled to recover from the crisis of May 2018, when Pikpa camp hosted around 400 Kurdish people fleeing violence in Moria. At the same time, we faced threats from the prefecture to close the camp, and successfully fought local business owners and private individuals in court. We have been negotiating with the authorities to resolve the unofficial status of Pikpa camp, to find a solution that respects our identity and independence, but the process has stalled. Although we continue, it has taken its toll on our capacity, leading to the exhaustion and departure of a number of committed team members.
Despite starting the year in a strong financial position, 2019 has been difficult. Lesvos Solidarity relies on donations. We do not take funding from the state or the UNHCR. The fact that we have survived, since our inception in 2012, is testament to the power of local and international solidarity.
There has lately been a general ‘donor fatigue’ around funding for refugee solidarity initiatives, especially for organisations working in Greece. The fall in donations was sudden. Our difficulties were worsened by the end of our collaboration in March with Borderline Europe – who suffered the same fundraising difficulties that foreshadowed our own – in the running of Mosaik Support Centre.
2018 was a dark year politically. Moria camp was overcrowded, and the mental health crisis that already existed was made exponentially worse. Many of the residents of Pikpa camp needed psycho-social support, which led to further staff costs in Pikpa camp.
Lesvos Solidarity’s work has become symbolic of an alternative vision of refugee support. The dominant European approach of migrant reception prioritises containment, institutionalizes neglect, and gives rise to violence, harassment and deportation. Our approach provides community-based solidarity to those in need, actively works to promote integration and advocates for a more inclusive society.
Lesvos Solidarity is rare. It is a grassroots organisation whose team is committed to a political vision of a socially just Europe. We will work to support the project, most of us on a voluntary basis. We are also supported by a committed team of local and international volunteers, whose decision to join our community reflects the vision of the society that we work towards.
In both Pikpa camp and Mosaik, our primary concern is to maintain services for people in need. The team of Mosaik will be working on a voluntary basis for the next two months. Pikpa camp will maintain core psychosocial and medical services, as well as the distribution of food. Operational staff in the camp have committed to working voluntarily for the coming months while a solution is sought. Meanwhile, the costs of the camp’s septic tank and water, general expenses and staffing need to be found.
The whole community has doubled down on our campaign for sustainable funding, and we have been humbled by the response from former volunteers, our social media networks, and our international supporters. But we need more support – in the form of the expertise and logistical support of our partners on the ground, and the financial aid of our supporters internationally.
Lesvos Solidarity will continue to provide community-based solidarity to migrant communities. But the scope of what we are able to do will depend on the resources available to us. Please, if you can, consider giving us a monthly donation to make our work more sustainable in the long-term.