FENIX 

By Louisa Jakobsson

This past September was a dire month for Europe’s most notorious refugee camp, Moria, and for the locals, humanitarian workers and asylum seekers on the island of Lesvos, Greece. One of the organizations working tirelessly on the ground is Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid, which is Network for Migration Matter’s “Hero of the Month”  for September 2020.

 

The aim of Felix Humanitarian Aid is simple. They fight forlegal assistance, empowerment through information and the agency of refugees to navigate their own future. The organization was established in November 2018 by five volunteers who wanted to see legal aid in humanitarian contexts being done differently. Taking into account the particular needs and skills of each asylum seeker, Fenix empowers each individual by acknowledging and encouraging their agency. Through offering different tools to navigate the maze-like procedures of migration control and asylum, Fenix aims to help migrants build new lives in a safe country.

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Volunteers at Fenix

Most refugees have experiences of abuse and trauma prior to, during and after their journey to the European border, many having experienced sexual and gender based violence. Within this context Fenix takes a holistic approach to legal aid, focusing on dignity, individuality and wellbeing. The field team based on the island of Lesvos is made up of lawyers, psychologists, translators and community ambassadors, who work together when assisting migrants in the camp. In fact, prior to having their facilities in the camp destroyed, Fenix was the only legal aid clinic with offices inside Moria camp.

 

On 2 September, the first Covid-19 case was detected in Moria camp, to which the Greek government responded by imposing a total lockdown of the camp. In the early hours of Wednesday 9 September, a fire broke out in Moria camp’s overcrowded facilities which completely destroyed it, thereby creating a humanitarian crises. By the end of the September, a new camp was established where people are forced to live in inhuman and unsanitary conditions. The asylum seekers, including minors, victims of violence, people with disabilities and severe medical conditions, are not allowed leave the new area which is monitored by the police.  Moving forward, Fenix will continue with their targeted emergency response, focusing on identifying and assisting highly vulnerable women and children. They are also continuously pursuing strategic litigation regarding the failures of the European asylum process on behalf of clients with disabilities and vulnerable minors, monitoring and reporting on human rights violations and advocating for legislative changes.

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A photograph showing the destruction caused by the fire on 9 September 2020, which ravaged the Moria camp.

As the situation for migrants on the island of Lesvos, as well as in Europe as a whole, becomes more hostile, the vision of Fenix; ”to see a just and equitable European asylum process that treats individuals with dignity, upholds their rights and offers them the knowledge and agency to navigate their own lives” becomes all the more important. This is why NMM has decided to name Fenix their Hero of the Month.  

As the situation for migrants on the island of Lesvos, as well as in Europe as a whole, becomes more hostile, the vision of Fenix; ”to see a just and equitable European asylum process that treats individuals with dignity, upholds their rights and offers them the knowledge and agency to navigate their own lives” becomes all the more important. This is why NMM has decided to name Fenix their Hero of the Month.  

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