A few months ago, we took over the operation of the Safe Areas in Samos and in Kos for about 170 unaccompanied minors. The areas where unaccompanied children in the Reception and Identification Centers (RIC) can feel safe and protected. When we started, we found children living in terrible conditions: the containers where they slept had big holes in the floor, water was dripping through the roof, toilets were broken and there were rats everywhere. Our teams started with determination, they won the children’s trust, they managed to improve the space and started doing activities together. Within a short period of time we finally saw the children smiling!
In the midst of the pandemic, even stricter hygiene rules have been added. The children were informed about the ways to protect themselves and about the responsibility they have for the protection of the entire population in the camps, and also of the local population on the islands. They understood the seriousness of the situation and with a sense of responsibility, they do their best to clean the spaces on their own, to wash their hands often, and to try to keep distances – as much as this is possible in the overcrowded camps.
Every day our team is next to the children, encouraging them to use their time creatively: In Samos they painted the containers in which they live with sprays in bright colours, thus turning the whole Safe Area into a more pleasant space. In Kos, they “brightened up” their own Safe Area by planting flowers and painting the ground with games they can play and athletic tracks.
Their willingness to make their spaces beautiful and pleasant, their creativity and joy in an environment so depressing and stressful, is a life lesson for all of us about the joy we can get from the simplest things!
Safe Areas are part of MERIMNA project of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union (DG Home).