Photographer and filmmaker Ali arrived in Lesvos one night in spring 2018 and has since then been living in Moria refugee camp. Currently, Moria is ‘hosting’ triple its capacities with more than 7.000 women, men and children trapped in inhumane and life-threatening conditions. Many are sleeping rough, with not enough tents and blankets for everyone. Winter is approaching fast and there is no solution and relief to be expected!
Ali produced a short film called ‘Silent Message’ that focuses on the appalling conditions refugees are facing in the camp and the life on the island. His previous work focused on the situation of the Hazara minority in Pakistan. Lisa from HarekAct and Ali met in Lesvos for an Interview.
Ali, tell us about your film ‘Silent Message’!
The film is not as good as I wanted it to be, as I realized it with very little equipment but with a lot of help of friends.
With my film, I wanted to show the life for refugees in Moria: The food lines, the tents and the garbage everywhere. But the film is also a message to other refugees stuck on the island. I wanted to show that there can be a life outside of Moria: exploring the capital of Lesvos, spending time at the beaches, swimming or fishing – and thereby trying to forget the horrors of Moria at least for a moment. I see so many people in Moria thinking about their asylum decision all the time and are getting depressed from waiting. So, I decided to do a documentary without any interviews, a silent film to give some hope!
Before you arrived in Lesvos, Greece, how much did you know about the situation in the islands and the conditions in the hotspot Moria?
I didn’t know about this situation, about Moria, about Lesvos. I came here and when I saw Moria I was disappointed for 10 days. It’s not a place where I want to live, where I want to stay for a long time, for six, seven, eight months even. When the guards in the camps searched our bags for the first time, I said to myself: “Welcome to jail!”
You’ve been here in Lesvos since more than 6 months. How is your everyday life in Lesvos now?
Of course, I have the situation in Moria in my mind all the time. But it’s important not to forget to live. I think even in these conditions people shouldn’t forget to live, adjust to the situation and their problems here. I’m ok, when I’m only staying in the camp for eight hours at night. I normally go to sleep only at 2 am and I can sleep until 8 am in the morning, as I don’t have to queue in the breakfast line. During the day, I’m out of the camps to meet people. Among them professional photographers, filmmakers, teachers. This is the positive thing about my life at the moment: I meet many nice people here – people who care about me and my problems, and who want to help. I also learned a lot from people I met here, for example regarding photography.
How is it for you to be in Moria?
You can’t tell anyone not to shout, scream, play music. It’s always loud. And always dirty, there is garbage everywhere. Moria is a place of torture for me. People who come to Moria without any psychological problems, will face these latest after having lived in the camp for 5 months. You can’t be free there.
I think that the NGOs working in Moria should give refugees hope and help them focus on their goals for the future. Many people, especially young men, find relieve in drugs and alcohol. They are destroying their future. They need to be told that the camp is only temporary, even if for one or two years.
There are many more problems in Moria. It’s not just the noise, dirtiness and the food lines. Authorities should distribute the food in two or three places, not just one. At the moment, people stand in the food line for around four hours three times a day – 12 hours of queueing! Many of the conflicts in Moria arise from the food lines.
The asylum authorities need to hire more staff, to process the asylum claims faster and release people as soon as possible.
What do you wish for your near future?
I’m a person with a lot of hopes and dreams for the future. This is the only thing that makes me happy here in Lesvos. I’m trying to learn something new every day. For the next months I want to focus on a new documentary project about the volunteers of Lesvos. When I arrived in Northern Lesvos in March, I was received by volunteers from all over the world. I want to portray their great solidarity work.
Do you want to stay in Greece?
I want to get more professional in photography and filmmaking, and therefore I need to meet more professionals to get inspired and learn new things. I think it will be hard for me to achieve this goal here in Greece, so I need to go to another place in Europe. Greece was never my goal when I travelled to Europe.
Thanks a lot, Ali! And all the best for your future!
Enjoy watching Ali’s 22′ short film: