Swimming against the stream

- Strengthening the Resilience of Young Men on Lesvos

By: Hans Storgaard
PSS Delegate,
Lesvos, Greece 

Under the ECHO funded IFRC Emergency appeal, Danish Red Cross supports Hellenic Red Cross in responding to refugee and migration crisis, which has led thousands of refugees and migrants stranded on Lesvos.

When the EU-Turkey deal came into effect on March 20, 2016 the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe dropped rapidly, however those who arriveto the island are being held back in semi-detentions centres such as the Moria Camp. Currently 4449 people are living in the camp, which has the capacity of housing 3000 people. Upon arrival to the island, refugees and migrants are being detained for 25 days before they receive permit to leave the camp. However, this does not allow them to leave the island and many people are often waiting for months before their asylum processes can be started. The uncertainty about their future and the fact that there is not much they can do, compared to those who had “free” access to Europe before the EU-Turkey deal, as well as poor conditions in the camp often results in a tense and stressful atmosphere, which increases the tensions amongst communities and lead to violent riots against the authorities and some humanitarian actors.

While the island is full of humanitarian actors providing all kind of services to refugees and migrants, Danish Red Cross has identified a gap amongst the young men in Moria camp. Men are often neglected by other aid agencies, despite making almost 70% of the Moria camp population. With inspiration from the Danish Red Cross PSS handbook “The Resilience Programme for Young Men”, Danish Red Cross and Hellenic Red Cross are conducting PSS and recreational activities including football and volleyball, which release the stress of the young men and strengthen the relations amongst the different nationalities. The approach is to create safe spaces outside the depressing settings of the camp, where people can meet each other and unite through joint interests in recreational activities. The response on the activities has so far been overwhelmingly positive and as the football coach Henry explains: “Football is part of me. I feel relief when I play as well as joy. I appreciate coming here and feel the game that I lost for so long time”.

Danish Red Cross is planning to increase the number of activities and covering more people in Moria Camp through recreational activities by introducing a recreational area next to the camp. The area, called Olive Grove and will serve as a hotspot with access to Wi-Fi, recreational and educational activities. It is the aim that the area will work as a safe space where people can restore the sense of normality and an alternative to the stressful and depressing settings of Moria camp. In the development of the space, refugees and migrants will be instrumental in planning, building and utilizing the space.