The ‘peaceful’ refugee camp with yoga classes and lavender bushes | Refugees

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Lesbos, Greece – The Greek island of Lesbos has become synonymous with the story of Europe’s refugee crisis. 

Its largest camp, Moria, continues to make headlines as residents lament inadequate facilities for its population, which at around 8,000 is well above its official capacity of 3,000.

Twenty minutes’ drive from Moria and 10 minutes from island’s largest city of Mytilene is Pikpa, a camp run by Lesvos (Lesbos) Solidarity, a group started by residents in response to the increasing number of refugees arriving on the island. 

The camp is described by the group as “open”, a statement against the detention of migrants and refugees in Greece, which was protocol when Pikpa began. 

The site is on the grounds of a former children’s summer camp.

“We started in 2012. Back then, we didn’t have mass arrivals like 2015. There was no Moria at that point and everyone was detained in the police station. We wanted a place that would be open, out of detention and decent. We also wanted the society to participate in the support of the refugees so they are aware of the problems and they are more positive towards them,” says Elfi Latsoudi, a founding member of Pikpa. 

“It’s still here six years later because of the big need for shelters for refugees.”

It was great, it was the best place for me, it was the most peaceful place I found.

Shoeb, 22-year-old Pakistani refugee and former resident of Pikpa

While they have increased the camp’s potential capacity, Lesvos Solidarity are currently unable to accept many more residents. 

“Now we have about 100 people, that is because there are many complicated issues about the status of the camp … The Prefect [of the Region of the North Aegean] has said that they don’t want more refugees to come here. We had 380 people that arrived in May [after a fight in Moria].

“They were very well accommodated when they came to Pikpa but we had reactions from some hotel owners. It was very political because they started to say that this place is not safe for the neighbourhood, which was not the case. We didn’t have any incidents all these years.”

The camp provides for the most vulnerable cases, including families with children, pregnant women, refugees with disabilities and those who suffer from serious medical conditions. 

It is made up of a series of wooden huts and a small garden fragrant with lavender and rosemary bushes. 

There is a large woodland area and a white dome where activities such as yoga take place. 

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