Feature: A look into the main Organisation providing “aid” to refugees in Greece’s most notorious detention centre.
Who are they? How did they get there? What is their agenda?
EuroRelief has been the main provider of housing and aid to refugees in Moria since late 2015. However, if you speak to any refugees who have had to endure their services, you would find out that they provide anything but aid.
This week EuroRelief have been busy. They focused all their efforts toward cleaning the rubbish out of Moria and got rid of all the tents that people have been living in for months. This was done just in time for a visit by European journalists and politicians who came to inspect the detention centre. After all, Moria is only open to the media on very special occasions.
‘They made Moria look like a hotel… but Moria is a hotel only for a day. The Greek government and European NGOs do not want the world to know the reality in Moria. Here is proof.Claimed Arash who has lived in Moria for more than a year and a half.
So who are EuroRelief ?
They are represented as the ‘humanitarian arm’ of a bigger organisation known as Hellenic Ministries.
EuroRelief is HM’s humanitarian arm, dedicated to providing first responder and extended help in natural disasters throughout the region. — Hellenic Ministries Home Page
And who are Hellenic Ministries?
Hellenic Ministries purposes to reach communities holistically. Through evangelism, we share the message of the gospel with those we encounter. Through discipleship, we walk with others, helping them grow in their relationship with the Lord. Through acts of compassion, we help the impoverished by responding to physical and spiritual needs. And through training and support, we empower missions beyond the Greek borders. Please visit our ministry pages above to see our vision in action! — Hellenic Ministries
From the way they make things sounds, you would assume that they are a Greek Organisation governed by Greek people. But they are not… a deeper look and you will find that their main office is based in the U.S. After all, barely any Greek people are Evangelical. In fact 98% of Greeks are Christian Orthodox.
Last year, Hellenic Ministries invested a lot of time and money into a project named Operation Joshua, a project whose aim was to distribute millions of copies of the bible across rural households in Greece.
Operation Joshua required millions of dollars to execute. With that much money at their disposal… surely over 6000 people shouldn’t be living in a prison camp that has the capacity to host 1800 people throughout the winter? Surely families with children shouldn’t be forced to sleep outside in summer tents in the snow? Surely the rubbish could be cleared? Surely safe and hygienic facilities could be established? Surely people should not be dying from preventable illnesses?
With that much money surely Moria shouldn’t look like this 2 years on…
Moria is a hell. Moria is a Prison. People are living in filth. Families with children are sleeping outside in the middle of winter in summer tents. Last winter seven people died in Moria due to the cold. Photos by Kevin McElvaney
Eurorelief is run by an American man named Jeremy Holloman. He has been running the organisation for over 2 years. The last we looked into the law, as an American citizen you are only allowed in the Schengen Zone for 3 months every 6 months. His wife keeps a blog about all the humanitarian aid their family provides though, take a look here.
The Guardian also released a piece in August 2016 titled: ‘Aid workers accused of trying to convert Muslim Refugees at Greek camp”
In response EuroRelief released this statement:
Now, EuroRelief is an NGO. As an NGO we provide humanitarian help wherever is needed.
We don’t do bible distribution. And this is very clear in our code of conduct.
The individuals though, our volunteers and our staff have the right in Greece, because of the Greek constitution and the European law, as you can see in previous post to hand out a Bible or another book! It’s their right! Nobody can prohibit them of practicing their rights, even in refugee camps.
This may be the case… but the most worrying part of this is that EuroRelief has been accused of favouring refugees who do change their faith to Christianity.
Rumours are plenty within Moria that if you do change your faith — you are much more likely to be granted asylum. EuroRelief also has the power to do this, because they work very closely with the authorities.
We asked a refugee whether they try to convert people:
Yes. A lot. I never want to take what somebody tells me for the truth, and I never do… So I didn’t completely believe what I was hearing about them. Not until it happened to me.
It was a cold night… Sometime in the winter, and I was sleeping in one of the big white tents. They came into our tent and were giving us all chai. I accepted a glass. Before I could put the glass to my mouth, the guy turned to me ‘why are you Muslim?’ I was so shocked. I didn’t know what to say. You know for the rest of the world; we think that Muslim to them means terrorist. I know it’s not like this for everyone, but that’s what we think. That’s why a lot of us don’t want people to know that we are Muslim and some people even don’t want to be Muslim. We think if you are Christian then you will have more chance at getting asylum. I think it plays a difference in your Asylum Application if you do this. I think Euro Relief can influence asylum decisions with this. That’s why we are all careful what we say to them. — refugee living in Moria
The same way they have the power to accelerate the process of giving asylum to refugees — they also have the power to accelerate the arrest and deportation of refugees they do not deem worthy of asylum based on their own presumptions.
We asked another refugee whether EuroRelief work with the authorities:
They definitely work with the authorities. We all know this. They work with them in every way. There was this one time, it was the middle of winter, it was so cold. Our community representative went to the Euro Relief office late in the night asking for another blanket. They told him no, sorry we cannot give you one and gave him a ticket to come back in a week. He was very upset he didn’t overreact but began to raise his voice pleading with them to give him a blanket. He didn’t get one. They next day our representative was in Moria prison. The police came to his room early in the morning and arrested him. He spent a few days in jail before they released him. We asked the authorities why he was in prison and they told us because Euro relief reported him and because he was drunk. He wasn’t. But they have this power over us. They keep a record of who we are, of where we live and we always know that we can be arrested if we do anything wrong. We don’t trust that they are here to help us. — refugee living in Moria
Being in charge of housing means that EuroRelief is able to segregate people based on nationality — which in the process of arrests and deportations is very convenient for authorities.
In Moria, refugees are forced to wear coloured wrist bands with numbers on them in order to receive aid. This tells volunteers and authorities where a particular person lives within the detention centre — and what nationality they are. This makes the targets of arrests and deportations much easier, whether these deportations and arrests are lawful or not is a different story.
How do they do this?
A day in the life of a EuroRelief Coordinator from their blog which you can read here :
As a coordinator I came in everyday starting the shift off by briefing in our volunteers. Talking about what projects needed to be accomplished that day, talking about what challenges have surfaced that we may face throughout the day. I would go over our rules and regulations, trying to remind the volunteers why were are there, encouraging people to keep their eyes on Jesus throughout the workday and dividing everybody up in the different areas we work in.
I’d start by sending out a team to go check the new arrivals tent to see if any new boats had come in overnight, get the break down of the nationalities, genders, and ages of family members. Then the housing team which was the main area I oversaw would begin looking at the boards that held the number of people living in which areas and what nationalities they were.
Housing boards showing the breakdown of housing units. As you can see nationalities of residents are shown. Source: peacepapergirl.wordpress.com
Next, I would send out small groups of people to each possible living area to “negotiate” with people asking “Can one man from Syria move in here?” Usually coming back claiming the people had said no due to the overcrowded living conditions. Much of what my job entailed was arguing…a lot. People constantly lying claiming they had more people living in their tent than they really did.
EuroRelief may consider themselves as ‘invisible heroes’ … But many people beg to differ. If their focus was providing aid to refugees — Moria would not be in the state it is now.
At AYS we strongly believe an investigation is required into the organisation EuroRelief and the work they do. If the authorities are not prepared to do this, we will. We are urging any volunteers, refugees, locals to send through any information they may have through to our Facebook Page.