Europe

AP PHOTOS: Exiled in despair: Migrants in Greece losing hope

  • In this Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 photo, 35 year-old Syrian woman Majla Khalil Tamo, holds her six-month-old baby girl Ritsona Khalil Isa, at the Ritsona camp for refugees and other migrants north of Athens. The baby was named after the camp, where she was born with a birth defect in her lower spine that has paralyzed her from the waist down. Doctors have told her parents she will never be able to walk. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

    In this Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 photo, 35 year-old Syrian woman Majla Khalil Tamo, holds her six-month-old baby girl Ritsona Khalil Isa, at the Ritsona camp for refugees and other migrants north of Athens. The baby was named after the camp, where she was born with a birth defect in her lower spine that has paralyzed her from the waist down. Doctors have told her parents she will never be able to walk. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 photo, a Syrian child plays in front of graffiti at the Ritsona camp for refugees and other migrants north of Athens. About 600 people _ including 160 children _ live in the camp. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

    In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 photo, a Syrian child plays in front of graffiti at the Ritsona camp for refugees and other migrants north of Athens. About 600 people _ including 160 children _ live in the camp. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 photo, Syrian children play on the top of a tent at the Ritsona camp for refugees and other migrants north of Athens. Like dozens of refugee camps hastily created around Greece, Ritsona started with tents set up in an abandoned military facility. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

    In this Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 photo, Syrian children play on the top of a tent at the Ritsona camp for refugees and other migrants north of Athens. Like dozens of refugee camps hastily created around Greece, Ritsona started with tents set up in an abandoned military facility. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)  (The Associated Press)

Ritsona, a 6-month-old Syrian girl with large brown eyes and a quick smile, was named after the refugee camp where her family stayed when she was born.

Still there, she's faced with a future that looks increasingly grim.

Ritsona spent the first few weeks of her life in and out of hospital, after doctors were alerted to serious birth defect in her lower spine.

At the camp in central Greece, she spends her days on a flimsy foldout bed, as her father, Mohammed Khalil Isa, tends to his other four children, including 15-year-old Ahmed who uses a wheelchair and suffers from a similar illness. Other fathers try to protect their tents from rain and overnight cold.

Like dozens of refugee camps hastily created around the country, Ritsona started with tents set up in an abandoned military facility.

But signs of permanence — along with boredom and despair — are setting in as European Union countries fall further behind on commitments to take in those who fled from war.

More than 60,000 refugees and migrants are stuck in Greece, stranded by measures designed by the European Union to stop more traveling to the continent. Only 4,500 people — less than 10 percent of the total — have been placed so far in EU countries, where anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise.

Greece's government is scrambling to provide container huts before the winter, while camp dwellers have turned the tent city into a tiny shanty town: hammering furniture together out of scrap wood, cooking on cinder block stoves and hoisting tarp covers for roofing.

After a recent downpour, Syrian refugee Yousef Hanash cleared mud away from the base of his tent. On quiet days, he spends the afternoon teaching two of sons how to play chess.

A father of four, Hanash said he came to Europe as a last resort, unable to keep his family safe after his cheese factory was destroyed in the war and he moved around Syria.

He paid smugglers to make it across Turkey, reaching Greece by dinghy just before a late March deadline, after which new arrivals were detained for deportation.

"Our plan was to go to any country in Europe, to save our children from war and give them a better life," Hanash said.

"But there is nothing for us to do here. No jobs or opportunities. Life here is miserable. All we can do is deal with the weather, the heat, the cold and the rain," he said.

"We escaped from war and an immediate death. But here we are dying every day."

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Follow Petros Giannakouris at http://www.twitter.com/PGiannakouris