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Return to Ritsona

Now, although the walls we had heard about and dreaded had indeed been erected around the camp, we were able to enter with no trouble. We met our friend and partner Georgia and had the great pleasure to be present when she gave the newly obtained B2 level english language certificate to one of her arabic speaking pupils. Georgia will be starting two new groups of pupils in the camp with on line teaching this autumn.

We gave out a few of the donations we had brought from France and the rest were divided between two of Georgia’s pupils, so that they could distribute them equitably to their respective communities. The beautiful hand knitted baby clothes from AMASSAT, the toothpaste and other toiletries donated by the Lauzerte pharmacy, the wonderful computer and other equipment given by the brother of one of our members were particularly appreciated. We were asked to transmit many thanks for these and all the other donations of shoes, clothes, and other items.

All the residents of the camp are now housed either in well equipped container units or in the numerous small houses that have been built. We were kindly invited by Amir to meet his family in their little house. These houses are shared by two families at a time, the number of people that a family might share with seems to be a question of luck as some families are relatively small, others very large. The two families each have two private rooms to themselves and share the kitchen and bathroom/

The general atmosphere of the camp was calm and there was certainly a certain freedom of movement. The residents had created a living community, with a main street lined with little shops, sometimes just a shack offering one or two items, sometimes groceries, sometimes fruit and vegetables, a barber or two, a playground, and the “Café Ritz” apparently transformed! All the bare basic necessities of village life seemed to have been created.

Unfortunately many people have been waiting a very long time to have their asylum claims processed, most having already been in one of the island camps. Amir has been waiting with his parents and siblings for over two years and they haven’t even had their first interview. However, they have recently been offered the possibility of transfer to Italy as they are a “vulnerable” family to start their asylum process.

Although the life remains extremely hard and the waiting for their asylum claims to be examined is often morally unbearable for the refugees in all the camps. However, I left Ritsona with the knowledge that at least proper housing had been created, and although my time there this time was too short to make a real judgement, it seemed that dignity had been restored to the residents who were able to organise their lives as best they could during their long period of waiting in limbo before being told what their future would be.

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