Posted by Debbie Setlock

Journalist and club Rotarian, Maria Karagianis shared the account of her 2016 visit to the Moria Refugee Camp in Lesbos.  Through some informal contacts, Maria was asked to visit the camp to observe and report on the conditions.  After some deliberation, she did agree to visit, however when she arrived, the Greek government would not give her a press pass. Being an astute journalist, she quickly met up with some camp volunteers who provided her access,(somewhat illegal Maria recounts).

The Moria refugee camp was dubbed "the worst refugee camp on earth", as reported by the BBC, a sentiment also echoed by  Maria.  The camp was built to accommodate around 3,000 people, however there were around 20,000 people living in the camp, among whom 6,000 to 7,000 were children under the age of 18. It was not uncommon for people to wait in line for 3 hours for food and never get anything.  Maria said it was more like a prison than anything.  Luckily there were a lot of great volunteers at the camp.

 

Because of overcrowding, the camp expanded into a nearby olive grove, known as "Moria jungle", where the living quarters were makeshift, typically made out of pallets and tarps. The migrants cut down an estimated 5,000 olive trees, some of them centuries old, to use as firewood.

In September 2020, a fire badly damaged the camp of more than 12,000 asylum seekers. Most of the refugees were left homeless on the street. Maria thought that most of the refugees were placed in other camps that the Greek government had built.   The fires were started deliberately by migrants, the Greek government adding that the refugees were protesting that the camp had been put on lockdown due to a COVID outbreak.

When Maria returned to the US, she provided a talk at the Harvard Club about her visit to the Moria Refugee Camp. That further launched some 30 additional talks. Even though Maria is retired, it is clear, “once a journalist, always a journalist!”