So yesterday morning we visited Moria to provide a contrast with Pikpa, I wouldn't advise it, it's a prison, sadly the inmates are not allowed to communicate nor are we allowed to communicate with them, as we found out. It is now classified as a military base which wasn't clear to me before. If you are going to visit Lesvos first gain clarity on how you are allowed to communicate in order to help others, my naivety in thinking i wasnt doing anything wrong, based on the notion that I still live in a free world, as did the man living on the other side of the fence, nearly led to my arrest, i had tossed my business card to the man to provide him with my contact details, this was frowned upon massively by the guards who ushered me and the girls who were going to film me to the gates, we had to go in and fortunately for us Isi is Greek so was able to converse on our behalf, I remained quiet and hoped to betray the demeanour of calm regardless of the accusations and intimidation being levied, kicking off has never really been my style so I felt it best to remain passive, if someone is looking for an excuse it's best not to give it to them, but the real heroine here was Isi, slowly or quickly the situation became calmer, Isi spoke extremely well and it is a pleasant thing to be humbled by the wisdom and versatility of someone young but very wise. The Police informed us they were letting us go, but took our details, we left all feeling a little bit broken in two, for twenty minutes of our lives we were potential prisoners. So who knows what it's like being a resident. Unusually but correctly, I would like to pay my respects to the policemen, particularly the senior members of staff, they gave us a chance and an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, they have been tasked with a thankless duty and they draw a hard line, it was unpleasant, I know the girls were upset, it certainly put me through the mill, paranoia, guilt, helplessness, anger, frustration and an unquenchable sense of sadness fuelled by a steady adrenaline. It was a tough shift.
As much as I feel stupid, I also feel my trust has been broken, you see the impression our media at home has fed or had fed back, was that refugees were being interned and not imprisoned, and I thought maybe there was a difference. I had only intended to communicate with another man, to see if I could help him in anyway to find out his story as he wanted to tell it. I was unaware that this wasn't allowed because I hadn't read anywhere that this was wrong, so this should have been clear to us all from the start. It was also in stark contrast to the camp I have worked in, because there the refugees are preagreement, and also very vulnerable people for all manner of reasons, but they are free, safe and happy and there is laughter in that camp, and no razor wire, spotlights or aggression, except maybe when a three year old shoves another off a bike.
I went back there in the afternoon to finish the mural off, the contrast of mood as we arrived at the camp lifted a weight off my mind and my spirit. I set to work and soon had the assistance of the Spaniards and Tina, both absolute heroes.
My main work is now complete, and it was truly a team effort, between myself, translators, volunteers and of course the refugees. The people if Pikpa gave me more than I gave them in so many ways, and the refugees there are safe and happy because the infrastructure the volunteers provide is invaluable, this is what a gateway to freedom should look like, and feel like.
Bring this way of life to more refugees and I am sure it will cause less problems down the line, treat people like criminals, then they might start acting like them. Within ten minutes outside an internment camp I was this close to getting stitched up by bored young policemen, fortunately I had others with me as witnesses, and fortunately there were wiser older men willing to give a young Greek girl a chance to speak and let her keep her camera, and for reason to be restored.
There is no one bad in this story, but there is anger frustration fear and self loathing.
I will end positively though on this one and once again say thank you to Solidarity camp in Pikpa, the opportunity you give to people saves lives and does so with open arms and a smile.
Glasgow Examined Exhibition at The Veneer Gallery: 6pm 09.10.15
September 29, 2015
Glasgow Examined (West end) Exhibition (music mapped the terrain)