Working for International Rescue Committee

During the first week of March, I accompanied Lena Headey, British actor known for her role in the TV series Game of Thrones, to Lesvos island in Greece for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Headey is an IRC ambassador and has visited refugees on a previous visit to Lesvos in 2016. These are her posts from Instagram and a link to an article which features my photo of Lena. She returned to spotlight the mental health crisis which has resulted from widespread suffering and disillusionment, after about 10,000 asylum-seekers spent another miserable, rainy winter in the island camps, many in crowded tents. We had the chance to tour the infamous government-run Moria camp, where thousands of men, women and children asylum-seekers are made to wait months (and in some cases, years) for their status to be determined. For many, the situation is hopeless. Even if they are granted status in Greece, it’s a dead-end. They cannot legally move from Greece to other European countries, and Greece offers little in terms of job opportunities for those deemed refugees. Many will eventually fall into poverty and despair and some will chose to return to their country of origin after a harrowing experience in Europe. Lena was interviewed on PBS’ Amanpour & Co. I shot the video from the camp visit which is featured towards the beginning of the interview. 


“Roma Under Attack in Bulgaria” published by Amnesty Press/Sweden

(Photos and Text by Jodi Hilton) Across a vacant lot, past
a group of stray dogs, there is a settlement of one-story barracks opposite the
shabby apartment blocks of Stolipinovo in Bulgaria. Stolipinovo was established
to provide housing to those who moved to the countryside to find jobs in the
industrial sector during the Communist period. Among those who settled here
were thousands of Roma families. After the Communist government fell in 1989,
the Roma population continued to grow. Now, it’s one of the largest Roma
ghettos in Europe, with about 50,000 inhabitants. Katerina Asenova, a 34
year-old mother of three, is growing weary of living there. She and her
husband, parents and two sisters have rented such a barrack for 40 euros a month.
They are squeezed into the only one of the three rooms which offers comfort. There
are holes in the ceiling and moldy walls and no electricity, but it has a wood
stove and a queen-sized bed and on old carpet on the floor. “This is misery,”
says Asenova. “I just want to go home.”

“Home” is a Roma settlement
at the end of the village of Voyvodinovo, 10 kilometers away. There, 17 squat
houses were occupied by 76 members of her extended family until they were
chased out a month earlier. 

The troubles started on
the 6th of January, the day of Epiphany. Some say that Corporal
Valentin Dimov, a little drunk after celebrating, drove his car into the Roma youth
(two brothers, aged 17 and 21), then got out of his car and began insulting
them for being on the road. Others say the boys blocked the car and attacked
him. The local mayor Dimitar Toskov says Dimov was found badly beaten, bleeding
from the nose and ears. He was hospitalized and underwent surgery for “multiple
fractured bones on his face, the sinuses,” reported Focus News Agency. The Roma
boys were promptly arrested. As word spread around the village, tensions rose.

The Mayor came to warn us,
said Asenova’s father, Yosu Asenov, 60. “He told us that you will have to
leave.” 

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