Refugee Waste: Death, Survival and Solidarity in Lesvos

Gillespie, Marie (2018). Refugee Waste: Death, Survival and Solidarity in Lesvos. In: Dodsworth,, Francis and Walford, Antonia eds. A World Laid Waste? Responding to the Social, Cultural and Political Consequences of Globalisation. Culture, Economy and the Social (CRESC). Routledge, pp. 147–170.



The primal scene of my fieldwork in Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesvos occurred in the reception office at Pikpa refugee camp. I was there to hand over more than €1,000 for an order of bags made by refugees in the Safe Passage Workshop at the camp. I had raised the money from a group of academics visiting the island for a seminar. It was a blisteringly hot day in June 2016 and the office was frenetic. In the heat and noise of that moment, all the issues to be examined in this chapter coincided in dramatic fashion. One person was on the phone discussing the repatriation of the body of a Syrian refugee who had died off the coast of Mytilini after a very unsafe passage. The nurse was dealing with a pregnant woman who was about to give birth but there was a kerfuffle about her papers as they were calling an ambulance. An interpreter was taking details of a new arrival from the island’s registration centre at Moria camp. A group of children were on the threshold laughing noisily awaiting transport provided by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Humanity Crew to take them swimming. Telephones were ringing, plumes of smoke filled the air and Greek, Arabic and English voices melded.

[Abstract from Observatory of the Refugee and Migration Crisis in the Aegean]

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