Making Home in Filippiada

The Filippiada refugee camp is a few minutes outside of Filippiada, a town in north west Greece. From its road entrance, a cabin and a single slat car barrier left from when the Greek military occupied the site can be seen, and there is no sign of the vibrant community within. Behind this front-piece, you find cabins housing Oxfam, the UN, Doctors Without Borders and a classroom belonging to the school where I worked. You gradually pass a playground, two large tents and the containers where the kitchens and washing machines were located, until you reach the main residential area of the camp. With your back to what I have just described, and your eye following a slight incline, you will see a grid like network of 67 white containers, each around 1.5 x 3 metres. These were inhabited by around three hundred refugees from Afghanistan, Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

Photograph by Emily Weatherby

Whilst working as a teacher at the camp, I became interested in these living spaces, particularly in how residents extended, decorated, adapted their containers – why did they do it? Which residents within the container made them? And most importantly, how did it make them feel – did it make the camp feel more like home? Over the course of a few weeks, I interviewed twenty different families and individuals, some with large, established extensions or gardens, some with no additions or decoration at all, asking them these questions. This article presents three trends within the container practices: families with extensions, young male decorators and those who did not extend or decorate at all.

Families were responsible for the majority of the extensions within the camp, with nine of the thirteen containers I interviewed extend