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Multilingual Dictionary: Living Together in a Refugee Camp
This is an unusual dictionary. It brings together words and expressions commonly used by people who have been forced to live in refugee camps.
They’re common, various, random, multilingual, surprising or ordinary, invented or already existed, they’re without hierarchy, they’re breaking the borders between the different communities.
They’re created, repeated many times and in some cases modified by the people who have been passing through this island during the years.
They bring the accumulation of different feelings and emotions like hope, despair, sadness, anger, struggle, will to transform, joy and the insistence of living and staying alive by gushing out of the cracks with the strength of resistance.
The writers of this dictionary are people who experienced these conditions in first person and activists living in Lesbos Island. The dictionary is now open to contributions from new users with diverse experiences of living together as migrants.
- The tax number which allows you to work in Greece. You can access it only if your asylum case is accepted.
Ali Baba edit
- A story about a man who is like a Robin Hood.
- Common in the Arabic world, he’s stealing for giving to others.
- In the camp when you lose something, or something is stolen from you, you say it’s “Ali Baba”. For example, a person goes to the police and says “My telephone is Ali Baba” and the police will understand.
- A German word used for the provisory identity cards given to asylum seekers.
- When the police stops you in the city, the first thing they ask is to show your “Ausweis”.
- It’s called also Sebarga by the camp residents.
- A word used by women when they go to ask for papers from NGOs while they’re holding their babies.
- Whenever the police is attacking a young asylum seeker, the other observers usually say “Baby”. It means the person is minor so the police should let him go.
- During the pushbacks people are showing their children and saying “baby, baby” to the coastguard.
Baby food edit
- Women having newborn babies that need milk, they are going to NGOs and Euro Relief and just say “Baby food”.
- When the Roman community of the island sees the NGOs for refugees around, they also go and ask them for food in these ways: “Baby milk”, “Baby food”.
Bi sarparast edit
- Single parent women
Cheepro (Tsipo(u)ro) edit
- A heavy alcoholic Greek drink which was sold also inside the Moria camp causing many fights between different communities.
Coast guard edit
- A group of people who are pulling or pushing back the people in the sea sometimes even after they arrive in Greece putting their lifes at horrible risk.
- They usually use life rafts, put the migrants inside and push them to Turkish waters.
Çabuk Çabuk edit
- The expression means “fast fast” and its known by different populations of the camp as they were workers in factories in Turkey before coming to Lesbos. This expression was used by our bosses in order to make us work faster in Turkey.
Daktar (Doctor) edit
- There were always hundreds of asylum seekers with different health issues in front of Kitrinos or MSF (office of "Doctors without Borders"), and they were saying that they needed a daktar.
- Means cigarettes. We were using this word to ask each other from the rooms in the detention center if we have
- It means friend in Farsi
- It emphasize that we’re all good friends.
Emmanuel (the lawyer) edit
- A lawyer who became very famous in Moria camp. He was known by everyone as he was promising asylum papers to everybody. He took a lot of money from people and disappeared.
Euro Relief edit
- The manager of the camp, a missionary NGO which is here to convert people to Christianity, a religion with which you’re
more allowed in Europe.
- If you are a “good refugee” for Euro Relief, your asylum is most probably guaranteed.
- A catastrophy which can happen very easily in a refugee camp as there is no proper heating system and people find their own ways for not freezing.
- In the Moria camp it’s something you were waiting for four hours. When you get your breakfast, it’s already time to go in line for lunch. After 4 hours waiting again for your lunch, you need to eat fast and go again to start the dinner line.
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner or any single thing to eat (cake, bread, nuts) is called food.
- Breakfast is an empty croissant which pretends to be a chocolate one, and sometimes small package of nuts and a small juice.
- Lunch which is also your dinner is not fresh (almost expired) raw (not cooked) chicken and rice. And horrible salad.
Sometimes chickpeas. The bread is not bad.
Food line edit
- There were 4 food lines, now three. Yellow, red, blue and before there was also green. Each section should go to their proper food line.
- It’s a special location in the camp to describe where you’re.
- When people were in the streets after the fire in Moria Camp, without food, water, a place to sleep and they suffered a lot they decided to have a big demonstration and all of them from different communities were asking for freedom. Even children and kids who just learned the meaning of it participated.
Gharanteena (Quarantine) edit
- The big tent in Moria camp for the new arrivals. People need to spend at least 2 weeks there when they arrive.
- In this tent there were always people with a photo on their phone and a name to ask to find their lost children or relatives among the new arrivals.
- It means “my love” in Arabic.
- As an Afgan woman, when you see another woman from Irak, Syria or Somali you just call them “habibti”, which means “my love”, “my dear friend”.
- If it’s between men it’s “habibi”.
Hey, let’s go edit
- When the children playing in the camp see some large vehicle of transportation (as a truck), they immediately try to find a place on it for themselves wishing that this will bring them to Germany to join their friends. When they are on it they scream these words: “Hey, let’s go”
How many times did you try? edit
- This is a typical question asked by a migrant to another migrant in order to know how many times this person had experienced pushbacks before arriving to the island.
- In these days there are only few people on the island who arrived without having experienced a previous pushback.
- In order to get the asylum everybody needs to answer some questions about their life and the reason why they came.
- Interviews can take around 6 hours and they can ask you about very sensitive topics, as for example about your recent traumas. They’re measuring your pain as a criteria to be accepted.
- In the case of rejection you have another chance to try; the life in the camp means waiting for your next interview date.
Iranigak (from Iran) edit
- A word used to humiliate people from Afghanistan who were born in Iran and decided to live in Iran.
- They’re containers which are in better conditions than the tents.
- They’re warmer, they have electricity.
- During the winter they’re wet after it rains, but still everybody dreams to move from the tent into an isobox.
Kelepno (Kleepno) edit
- In Moria camp it was the only place to claim for vulnerability and it was very hard to get an appointment. We were using the word "Randevo" to ask for an appointment there.
- George office was also known by everybody. It was next to Kleepno and since it was inside the fence where minors were kept, we used this term to let us enter the location.
- It means “goodbye” in Farsi and it’s used by all the communities in the camp.
Khalas / Tamam edit
- "Khalas" in Farsi and "Tamam" in Turkish have the same meaning.
- They mean “okey”, “it’s finished”.
- They're mostly used when someone gets positive news after their interview. Examples: “Moria khalas”, “Moria tamam”.
- A Farsi word for "tent"
- This is a word to address gay people in the camp; those who have a “passive” role in sex. This title would justify any violence, harassment, rape, verbal and psychical violence, sex.
- Iranian people also use this word. Whenever the police captured you as a gay in Iran, they could keep you in detention for many days with many people. They would call you “kooni” in front of everyone. It would give others any permission to manipulate, touch and harass you.
- In the conditions of Lesbos it’s something very impossible to have for a migrant.
- NGOs working in the camp are hiring migrants under the name of “community volunteers”.
- According to the report by Legal Centre Lesbos, some migrants are “working for three shifts for different NGOs operating inside the camp and survive on the 20-euros supermarket coupons and 12-euros mobile top up cards given to them in exchange for their services”.
Levele Afreeghee (The Africans Level) edit
- It used to refer to the isobox in which the majority of people were from African countries.
- Every time the police stops refugees on their way to the town, we say “LIDL”. We meant that we’re outside just to go shopping.
Life rafts used for pushbacks edit
- One of the most common expressions in the Greek language used at the same time as a form of insult and a way of showing affection.
Manestar (monster) edit
- This energy drink is very popular in the camp during the hot summers.
Me crazy edit
- The most commonly used term to say when someone needs a psychologist in front of the clinics Kleepno, George Office and MSF (office of "Doctors without Borders").
Me Muslem/Ana Muslem (Arabic) edit
- It is used to emphasize that we are all Muslims and believe in God.
- Mostly used to stop arguments and fights since people were speaking in different languages.
Merci/Teşekkür/Thank you edit
- Everyone in the camp know and use one of these words for thanking.
Moria finished / Bye bye Moria edit
- These two expressions were used by all the migrants after the camp was destroyed by a big fire.
- It used to refer to an NGO inside the camp called "Movement on the Ground".
- This organization is famous to make migrants work for free. Almost half of the camp has worked for them with endless shifts for small coupons of food. They are called as “community volunteers”. According to the Western workers of this NGO, the migrants are bored and there is nothing better to do for them. So that should be ok. People believe working as a community volunteer may help them leave the island. We know it never happened.
My friend edit
- Inside the camp when you want to say something to someone, it doesn’t matter that you know that person or not. You call everybody “my friend”.
- Community representatives or delegates.
- They’re responsible to listen the problems of their communities and bring it to the authorities in the camp.
- They were chosen through election.
- In Moria there was also a Jungle representative which was an independent zone.
- They’re also known as community leaders and there are times when they’re together in collaboration with police against their communities. They contribute spreading the culture of espionage and calumniation between the migrants within the camp.
Nasvare Watanee edit
- Homemade tobacco
No good edit
- Everything which doesn’t work is described in few words: no good. Examples are, “Moria no good”, “Food no good”, “Camp no good”, “Turkiya no
No fight edit
- When someone tries to separate fights between the communities but doesn’t know the language of all, they just say “no fight”.
No khook edit
- It means "no pork".
- In Moria camp, once a week the food was sausages with uncooked rice. Asylum seekers hated this food and were wondering if it was pork or not
because of the bad taste. And they were saying “no khook” to the food distributors.
No line no food edit
- There are always some people who don’t respect the food line and the Greek police uses this sentence to tell them to be in their line to deserve something to eat.
- Wooden pieces that everybody was looking for in order to put them at the bottom of their tents to prevent cold and wet.
Paper police edit
- The document that everybody receives when they arrive to Lesbos and register at the camp.
- Every time you need to go out or enter the camp you need to show this paper.
- When people receive a rejection after their interview, their police paper expires.
- Whatever health problems you have (headache, stomachache, back pain, toothache) doesn’t matter, if you go to the clinic in the camp they will give you Paracetamol.
- Common term used by migrants to refer to the camps.
- With the excuses of Covid restrictions the prisons strengthened and we were allowed to go outside only once a week for 3 hours. This was planned in order to segregate us by local people and tourists of the island.
- It’s used for everything which is not working well.
- “Camp is problem”, “Interview is problem”, “Weather is problem”, “Going outside of the camp is problem”, “Electricity is problem”
- A natural phenomenon which causes moisture at the bottom of the tents where people sleep. As a consequence people suffer from chronic back pain and wearing wet clothes the day after.
- Can cause small lakes and rivers in the common living spaces sometimes.
- Both NGO workers and migrants in the camp use this word to say “hi”.
Sekshen (Section) edit
- It was referred to the safe zone that was surrounded by fences and where the unaccompanied minor children were staying in Moria camp.
Sharj (Charge) edit
- The item that the new arrivals are always asking in order to find a place to charge their mobile phones. Mainly inhabitants of isoboxes have it.
Shastonoh (69) edit
- In Moria some tents had very loud music and a sex worker inside. Asylum seekers used this number to ask for the location.
- The sex workers were mainly forced to do this and they were single parent women and some “safe zone” minors. Aside from the food lines, these lines were always popular. We can say that married men were more attracted than the single ones.
Stop Pushbacks edit
- A slogan used by different communities in the camp and Lesbos in the last two years.
- Migrants, activists and NGO workers use this slogan to demand the Greek Coast Guard and Frontex to stop pushing people who are looking for a safe space.
Tasht (basin) edit
- Round plastic pots to wash clothes inside. We ask for them at Euro Relief.
- A detersive. We were asking the guards so we can wash our clothes.
Tramadol and Lyrica edit
- These two drugs are very popular between the migrants. They’re used by people in the camp in order to prevent pain and feel high.
- It’s said that they’re used also by people who need to walk for kilometers while crossing the land borders. They give them energy and more courage.
- People who are coming from Europe to help refugees.
Welcome to the Hell edit
- When there was a new arrival in the Moria camp, this was the first sentence we used to hear from others. In the beginning we were not understanding its meaning, but it took very little time to understand the reason.
- When Moria camp was destroyed in a huge fire, its nickname “Hell” became real.
- A natural phenomenon which frequently happens on an island in the middle of the sea, which shakes the tents and causes such a strong noise, which at many times makes it impossible to sleep.
- Sometimes your tent can be completely destroyed because of this.
- Hello in Greek
- It means olive.
- During Moria camp times, the dinner was always boiled eggs and we were always asking for olive packs. We were all suffering from constipation.
- The divisions inside the camp which help to separate people depending on their profile as families, vulnerable people and single men.
- There are 4 zones inside the camp (Yellow, blue, red, green).
History of the Multilingual Dictionary edit
The dictionary was initially created and presented by migrants and activists from Lesvos Island for the occasion of the Mother Language Day: Living Together in Multilingual Societies, an event organized by Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region (GAMS)-Humboldt University of Berlin on February 21, 2022. The project is supported by RePLITO.
"Beyond Social Cohesion: Global Repertoires of Living Together" (RePLITO) takes marginalized and neglected repertoires of living together as its starting point to rethink social cohesion from a transregional perspective. RePLITO explores how social actors in regions of the Global South and within Europe’s margins imagine and practice communal life and create bonds. These repertoires of living together continue to be negotiated and transformed in the context of dynamic interactions beyond localities, nation states and regions.