The Black Chasm

Any time you say you’re going to Moria to someone who doesn’t know they look at you as if to say did you mean that place in Middle Earth. It is an ominous name that swirls around on the edge of my mind, mixing brutal facts with grim fictitious overtones from Lord of the Rings.

Centre, Lesvos, Greece, Benjamin Gow 4It is a place where a razor wire topped high fence rings a detention centre, now converted into the first hotspot registration point in Greece, which uncannily resonates with the imaginary abandoned dwarf city – where Moria means Black Chasm.

Centre, Lesvos, Greece, Benjamin Gow 5At the registration point of Moria, you are also part of a two tier system based on an accident of birth. To handle the administration, Frontex currently defines Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis as refugees automatically, everyone else is on a case-by-case basis.

Centre, Lesvos, Greece, Benjamin Gow 7

Yet, when I turned a corner I saw literally 100s of families, men, women and children, huddling together around fires, burning plastic to keep warm and sharing sleeping bags to cling onto what little warmth it gave them.

Even with the tents set up for sleeping, there are just too few and so many people have to sleep on a solid, cold and wet ground.Centre, Lesvos, Greece, Benjamin Gow 2

Imagine what it feels like to find yourself on a concrete forecourt outside double gates, or on the side of a hill where thousands of people have found themselves before you.

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A medical tent has doctors on shift throughout the night, tirelessly looking after each patient, and now has “rooms” to evaluate each one privately.

Centre, Lesvos, Greece, Benjamin Gow 3The lucky ones. Those who managed to get registered today crowd to get on the last bus of the night to the port.

As we were leaving that evening, I saw this graffiti on the wall “No One is Illegal,” and I thought that was a positive thing to show so many of us here wish the refugees the best. However when I stepped back to move on I saw the whole scene.

Centre, Lesvos, Greece, Benjamin Gow 1I saw a lone woman sleeping at the foot of a concrete wall, underneath the graffiti, with a garbage bin next to her.

We are staring onto that “Black Chasm”. This crisis is happening whether we accept it or not, the only difference will be how many people we kill with our cruel apathy, in our bungled administration of it.

It’s not about who they are, where they are on the sliding scale of human desperation and legitimacy, but who this makes us.

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