The Camp Is Empty

We would have never have thought that this day would actually come. Yesterday, after 10 months, the last 161 people left Camp Katsikas. Since March, they have been living in the field of an old military airport, in tents and (since October) containers.  They spent the last few weeks living in temperatures below freezing, „Life stopped when we entered Camp Katsikas“  the community wrote on a hand-made memorial clocktower that stood in the centre of the camps communal space. After almost a year of painstakingly slow progress, the last few days moved incredibly fast. The Greek minister for migration announced the clearing of the camp on national television. After that, all organizations on the ground had only a few days to scout hotels, sort rooms for all the people, support the packing and organize the transport.

On Thursday 29 December, 2016 at 4 pm: The moment when the last bus left the camp is hard to describe. It was filled with emotions both overwhelming and paradoxical. Over the next few months the people will be accommodated in hotels in the nearby town of Ioannina. Here, they will wait for the next decisions in their asylum process. The moment of departure was filled with excitement and euphoria, but also with uncertainty and melancholy. Back in March, the population of the camp had nothing in common other than the fact that they were stranded in the same place at the same time. Now they refer to themselves as the “community of camp Katsikas”. The challenges they had to overcome tied them together. But not only them, us and other supporters too. We now share a common chapter in the story of their journey.

This chapter is not the end of the story –  neither for them nor us. The reason for the sudden clearing of the camp is the unofficial announcement of new arrivals. Rumour has it that approximately 400 people will be accommodated in the containers soon – official statements regarding exact numbers or the time of arrival have not been made yet. We can hardly believe that a new generation will be subject to the undignified conditions of the camp, which became more and more obvious every day we spent in it.  

After having served 90 tasty meals in traditional Soup&Socks style to celebrate  the  move to one of the hotels last night, we spent today in the camp. Without the voices, the noise and the faces of the people, the lines of empty tents and containers are even more surreal than usual. We walk between the ruins of their efforts to feel at home in this hostile place.

There is only little time to take a breath – the new Generation of Katsikas Camp might arrive any day now. The clock is ticking, we need to rearrange the workshops of our project Habibi.Works and  adapt our concept to the new challenge in order to start over with a fresh mind and new motivation next year.

Not only us, but also you, having followed and supported the progress from home,you have been part of this chapter too. To be continued. Stay tuned!

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