Humanitarian Technology Research in Lesvos, Greece by Ariel Barbieri-Aghib

by tuftsigl
Jun 20

This past week and half, Owen and I have been in Athens and Lesvos trying to get hold of various tech companies and NGOs to interview for our database of humanitarian services for refugees on Lesvos, Greece. We began working on this project as part of the International Development Hackathon hosted by Tufts in the midst of the extreme migration crisis from the Middle East to Europe. 

Given the dramatic situation change as of June 1st, when the EU-Turkey deal was enacted and borders north were closed, Lesvos has become less of a transit island and more of a semi-permanent home for the refugees here where their asylum cases will be processed.

After speaking to a UNHCR site planner, we realized that the key needs of refugees have changed since we began working on the project. Instead of immediate needs such as blankets, refugees have more nuanced, longer-term needs, such as education, infrastructure, and translation services. 

The situation on Lesvos and across Greece is very complex. Despite the many volunteers from across the world coming to Greece to help the refugees, the lack of coordination across the various volunteer organizations and NGOs continues to hold the situation back. The Greek government is contending with its precarious economic situation—and is unable to deal with the refugee situation. 
However complex the refugee situation may be, one key element to keep in mind is that refugees just want to be respected and listened to as any other human being. At Kara Tepe, the originally “only Syrian” refugee camp on the island, refugees are referred to as visitors rather than refugees. 
When one is constantly approached by children begging for money, children without shoes, fathers carrying crying babies, little girls looking up at tourists with teary eyes, the most important thing to keep in mind is that those refugees could be any of us—we just had the privilege of being born in a relatively prosperous and safe country.

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