‘A yard turned to a hotspot’

In September 2019 numerous websites announced that  ‘the Thessaloniki Railway Station train yard has turned into a hotspot. The place was full of garbage and the hygiene is terrible’. The fact is that refugees and migrants had found shelter by occupying the abandoned trains –many of them were sleeping cars- that had been parked in the yard more than ten years ago and hadn’t moved ever since. A second fact is that indeed many plastic items such as bottles and food packages had been covering the stones between the wagons and the train tracks. Nevertheless beside those facts underlays another one. It is the informal admittance from the Press that the hot spots are really inhuman places where fundamental rights and any quality of life are absent, neglected dirty places that lack any infrastructure, safety and hygiene. So, this is the norm and again, this is regarded like a fact and like there is nothing we can do to turn them to better places. Paradoxically enough, they also demand the hot spots’ evictions as for example locals ask for Moria. However they ask so primarily not for the actual sensible reasons of the inhuman living conditions but for the locals’ own advantages. Accordingly, the abandoned train inhabitants -suchlike the hot spot inhabitants- are often presented as dangerous and threatening.  

Graffiti artists who were frequently visiting the same place in order to paint those and other trains testified diverse narrations. They became friends with the migrants and exchanged stories from their personal lives. They state that the squatters were not at all harmful to them. Pictures from their encounters show that their look was definitely well cared and clean. According to the artists, the inhabitants had even organised a barber shop in one of the trains’ coupes. 

Finally the train squatters were evicted and the wagons were moved seventy kilometers away after their long stay in the main station train yard.  Now new improved fences are replacing the older ones around the yard to prevent both migrants and graffiti artists to access any other parked trains.

Orestis Pangalos
December 2019


Letters to the World from an Olive Tree

Parwana Amiri is a young Afghan woman who spent more than a year migrating from Iran to Turkey and finally to Greece, before arriving to the Moria camp on Lesvos Island in 2019.


Since her arrival, Parwana has written a blog she calls ‘Birds of Immigrants’ comprised mostly of her first-person telling of the stories of many different migrants in the camp. She favours the stories of women and children, but uses her “I” voice to speak for all, for every kind of person and stranger, male or female, young or old, migrant or European, also trees.

When Parwana noticed how unbearable the living conditions were, she supported the people with her language skills and started to publicize the stories they had experienced. Parwana’s ‘Letters from Moria’ are published on Welcome to Europe’s blog The letters talk about life in the horrible conditions of a camp made to deter people from reaching a place of safety. She changes perspectives in each of her letters. She writes from the perspective of an old woman, who bakes bread to sell in order to buy medicine for her husband, of a young boy who is afraid to lose himself, of a young woman suffering from the abuse of men all around her and she writes from the perspective of a transgender person. These letters were written mostly at night by torchlight in the tent that Parwana shared with her eight-person family, in the olive grove. She always waited until everyone was asleep, so that she would have the peace of mind to write in the darkness with her torch.

Impressed by the olive trees in the groves surrounding Moria hotspot, where she had to live in a tent, Parwana wrote a story and published her first book ‘The olive tree and the old women’ together with Marily Stroux and the solidarity network, w2eu (“Welcome to Europe”) in Lesvos. The book is based on the real story of one of the many people forced into the Olive Grove of Moria; an imaginary conversation between an old woman and an olive tree.

Shortly before Moria was destroyed by fire in September 2020, Parwana and her family moved from Moria to Ritsona Camp on mainland Greece, where she continues to document the conditions and publish her words.