'We Aren't Seen As Humans'
Firaz is wheeling himself around the corridors of the camp in Elefsina.
While attempting to scale a fence, he fell and broke his foot. He is now confined to a wheelchair and has no access to medical care.
Firaz is from Damascus in Syria. His wife and children are still in Syria, but he hasn’t heard from them in more than a month, and is visibly worried about their safety.
He is angry as we speak. Not at me, but at what I represent to him. Just another person who comes and goes. ‘You’re the thousandth person,’ he tells me. He asks me what will change for him by my coming here. I could tell him many things, but instead I tell him that I don’t know. My honesty seems to surprise him.
We sit for a long time. Gradually he softens.
‘I feel nothing anymore,’ Firaz tells me. He places his hand across his heart. ‘There is nothing left in here.’
‘The boat journey is inhumane. We aren’t seen as humans, but as materials. They only speak with us because we are money to them, the traffickers. They don’t care if we live or die. Some people died in front of me.’
‘What I wanted was to bring my family here - for my children to be able to go to school, not to live in fear of being bombed. We came to live with dignity. When I arrived I had the feeling that our journey was for nothing. From the time we arrived on the island it was like we were not human.’
‘I feel that we need a psychological doctor. We feel like we are destroyed people - first from the war in Syria, then what we went through in Turkey and now what is happening to us in Greece. We don’t see any of these human rights that they talk about in Europe.’
‘I don’t have a heart any more. I don’t feel anything anymore. I don’t have any hope - nothing.’
I tell Firaz that I am not upset with him. I tell him that I can understand why he would be frustrated with what I represent to him. I’m just another person who comes here, asks them to share their story, and will then leave. It’s difficult to adequately explain what I do, who I’ll talk to, how their story might stir one person into action.
Sat with Firaz, in that moment, I feel conflicted and I tell him so. He is right in the sense that nothing will change for him right now. I have to admit that I leave wondering when it ever will.
But then I remember something a colleague once said to me after an equally hopeless trip to Gaza where, there too, people told me they had no hope.
He said something like ‘Why would we expect people to still have hope after all this? We (you and I) don’t get the right to hopelessness though. We’re here to hope when others can’t.’