MORIA, Greece - The first thing you notice is the smell: the stench from open-pit latrines mingling with the odor of thousands of unwashed bodies and the acrid tang of olive trees being burned for warmth.
Then there are the sounds: Children hacking like old men. Angry shouts as people joust for food.
And, finally, the sights: Thin, shivering figures drinking water from washed-out motor oil jugs. A brown-haired girl of no more than 3 clutching a fuzzy toy rabbit and smiling as she repeats to all who will listen, "I love you. I love you."
For years, the turquoise-ringed vacationer's paradise known as Lesbos has been on the front lines of Europe's struggle to contain its part of a global refugee crisis. But conditions at the Greek island's vastly overcapacity, razor-wired main camp have rarely if ever been as bad as they are this winter.
The deterioration has occurred even though far fewer refugees are arriving on Lesbos now than at the height of the influx to Europe in 2015 and 2016.
That seeming paradox has led aid workers, island officials and human rights activists to a disturbing conclusion: The appallingly bad conditions are no accident, but rather the result of a deliberate European strategy to keep people away.
"There's no reason why 5,000 people in a camp in Europe cannot have access to basic shelter, health care, toilets and hot water," said Aria Danika, Lesbos field coordinator for the aid group Doctors Without Borders. "The fact that they have to endure this tells me it's part of a broader plan."
That plan, she said, comes down to a single word: deterrence. And the message being sent to asylum seekers by the camp's Greek operators and European Union financial backers rings clear.
" 'Don't come here, or you'll be stuck on this horrible island for the next two years,' " said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher for the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
"It's urgent that people be transferred to the mainland," Cossé said. "But they don't want to do that."
European leaders, acutely sensitive to challenges from the far right and to popular opinion that has swung against refugees, have made no secret of their desire to stop people from reaching the continent.
Ever since the EU inked a deal with Turkey in March 2016 to send those who arrive on Greek shores back across the sea, EU officials have warned people that paying a smuggler to make the treacherous voyage would earn them only a return ticket, not a new life in Europe.
By some measures, the strategy has worked. Arrivals on Lesbos and other Greek islands averaged 2,500 a month last year, compared with the 10,000 who made landfall on Lesbos in just one day at the height of the crisis in October 2015. Drownings in the Aegean Sea have also plummeted, to 45 last year from nearly 800 in 2015.
But in other respects, the deal has not gone according to plan. The number of people sent back to Turkey, for instance, has dropped into the low dozens per month as asylum seekers appeal rejections and rights groups challenge the legality of turning away those in legitimate need of protection.
Meanwhile, Greece once ferried people off the islands and to the mainland for processing but has sharply cut back. The result is more than 7,000 people stranded in limbo on Lesbos, more than double the island's capacity to house. Newcomers still arrive daily. Thousands more live on other islands also well past their maximums. And many are stuck for months - or more.
Qamar Ahmad, a Pakistani who is a member of the persecuted Ahmadi minority, arrived in Lesbos just as the EU-Turkey deal was kicking in.
He's still there, living with a dozen others crammed on a plywood frame beneath a leaky tarp, and with no indication of a departure date.
"All my legal papers are in Greek, and I can't understand them. They haven't told me when I'll get answers," said Ahmad, 22, who studied physics in Pakistan.
The contrast between the Europe he expected and the one he's experienced still shocks him.
"We'd seen on television that Europeans were protecting the law and fighting for refugees," said Ahmad, slim with a neatly trimmed beard and a knit cap too thin for the January chill. "But when we got here, we found that no one is looking out for our rights."
Europe's approach to refugees has changed dramatically while Ahmad has been waiting.
In early 2016, there were still leaders, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguing that the world's most peaceful and prosperous region had an obligation to help as many people as possible fleeing wars and oppression in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, by contrast, was treated as a pariah for saying the asylum seekers were actually "Muslim invaders."
But it's Orban's vision that has won out; Merkel's political allies in Munich made him a featured guest at their annual conference this month, where he railed against supposed plans to "let in millions of Muslims."
European and Greek officials acknowledge that conditions at the main camp in Lesbos, a former military facility known as Moria, are poor. But they insist that it's not by design, while seeking to shift the blame to others.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, for instance, has argued that Brussels has provided well over $1 billion to deal with asylum seekers in Greece and that responsibility for the conditions at Moria is "in the hands of the Greek authorities."
Greek Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas counters that much of that money has gone to nongovernmental organizations and that local officials have resisted efforts to expand facilities.
But he also acknowledged that transporting people to the Greek mainland, where conditions are markedly better, would create new incentives for asylum seekers and result in "a mini version of 2015."
"If we relieve the islands, that would play into the hands of the smugglers," he told the German magazine Der Spiegel last month.
Those arguments all ring hollow on Lesbos, where the island's 86,000 residents have shown remarkable hospitality and forbearance over the past several years, but where frustration has now reached critical levels.
"The refugees are not to blame. But patience toward the Greek government and the European Commission is over," said Marios Andriotios, spokesman for the island's mayor.
The mayor, Spyros Galinos, recently joined his counterparts from other islands in a protest in Athens against the creation of "island prisons." The Greek government responded in December by transferring several thousand people to the mainland.
But with new arrivals every day, Andriotios said, there's been virtually no improvement at Moria. And as winter deepens, he said, so does the evidence that camp authorities were unprepared.
It can be seen all around the camp, where Moria's population overflows onto a hillside packed with hundreds of makeshift tents. Once lined with the gnarled trunks and silvery-green foliage of olive trees, the area has been stripped nearly bare. Residents burn the wood to keep warm and heat pots of water over the open flames so they can cook or bathe.
"There's winter every year. It shouldn't have been a surprise," Andriotios said. "Letting things get worse and worse just to warn newcomers is not the solution. It's not the humane thing to do."
The local government has proved that Moria doesn't have to be the way it is. Just down the road, island authorities have set up a camp for more than 1,000 especially vulnerable asylum seekers - the sick, the disabled and the old. Residents say conditions there are far superior.
On the northern Greek mainland, meanwhile, the American financier and philanthropist Amed Khan worked with partners to turn an abandoned factory into a home for hundreds. Residents co-run a facility that features kitchens, gardens and yoga classes.
Visiting EU officials rave about the space when they visit, he said, but have done nothing to emulate it.
"It's not incompetence; it's by design," said Khan, who was inspired to get involved in part by his experience on Lesbos at the height of the crisis in 2015. "There's no other explanation for the conditions people are living in 2½ years into this."
Even those accustomed to a harsh environment are taken aback by Moria.
Ahmed al-Kilani walked the camp in a disbelieving daze one recent evening, just 24 hours after his arrival in Europe.
He had come from Gaza, where he worked at refugee camps known chiefly for their misery and where he was forced out by threats from Hamas. But he was unprepared for this.
"Why is there no entertainment for the children here? Or training programs for new mothers? Or psychological support?" asked the tall, fit 26-year-old as he watched kids wrestle in the sewage-stained dirt.
As a pink sun set over the island's green hills and a shimmering sea, Kilani scrolled through his phone. Over and over, he watched videos of himself playing soccer with laughing children in the refugee camps of Gaza, his thoughts lost in a better place.
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Video: The deterioration has occurred even though far fewer refugees are arriving on Lesbos now than at the height of the influx to Europe in 2015 and 2016.(Griff Witte, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A Christmas tree stands in what was once Jeff Okrepkie's foyer in Coffey Park, a few red and gold ornaments hanging from its damp branches.
Once a picture of planned suburbia, the neighborhood is barren now. All 1,300 homes burned during a few overnight hours in October, a firestorm sweeping through with a mix of high winds and flame so violent that it pushed parked cars blocks away.
But in a gesture of resilience, the neighborhood threw a house-less holiday party last month, trucking in snow from Lake Tahoe, displaying a Santa's sleigh and dangling battery-powered lights from utility poles. It was a sign the starter-home neighborhood would return from a fire that destroyed more property than any in California history and left 22 people dead.
The bittersweet gathering of the Coffey Park diaspora also had a more practical purpose: To bring together community members who, even before the fire, hardly knew each other.
Those neighboring strangers are uniting, believing that a strength-in-numbers approach to negotiating with builders, lobbying City Hall and settling with insurance companies will revive the place they once lived in a way that everyone will still be able to afford.
"I didn't know many people beyond my own street here," said Okrepkie, who had lived with his wife in a gray, single-story home on Espresso Court for six years. "And now we don't even know where our neighbors are."
Coffey Park is emblematic of many aging suburban California neighborhoods. Its cul-de-sacs are populated by students, recent graduates in low-paying jobs and other house-sharing transients living next to busy young families with two incomes and little time. Now California's urgent task of expanding affordable housing for a squeezed working class is shared by this city about 55 miles north of San Francisco.
But the barriers to achieving that goal here among the ashes are extraordinarily high as the neighborhood rebuilds from a historic tragedy.
Residents in nearly half of the Coffey Park homes at the time of the wildfire - 43 percent - were renters rather than owners. The majority are not expected to return, and many underinsured landlords who never imagined that all their properties would burn at once are selling off vacant lots to developers with company profit in mind.
How many homeowners rebuild will determine the character of the Coffey Park that emerges from the taped-off plots - some cleared, some still a jumble of burned-out cars, melted garbage cans and charred trees. An estimated 8,000 residents of Sonoma County, where this city is the government seat, are simply planning to leave.
Much of the expected exodus is the result of housing costs. The flames destroyed 3,000 homes and apartments in Santa Rosa alone, or 5 percent of the city's housing stock. The sudden loss has rippled across a region that already had some of the nation's highest costs of living. Since the October fire, median home prices and rents, driven largely by the thousands of displaced, have spiked in counties across the North Bay region, some by as much as 30 percent.
"I hope that we can get the vast majority of these residents to stay in Santa Rosa, but we had a huge housing problem even before this," said Chris Coursey, the city's mayor. "This has created a kind of a two-pronged problem for the city: We need to help 3,000 people get back to where they want to be, but we also need to concentrate on making sure that five years from now we're not back to 2017."
The Tubbs fire flashed to life overnight on Oct. 8, and it burned with stunning speed, pushed by 80 mph winds over a series of ridgelines into eastern Santa Rosa.
The flames raced through canyons and into Fountaingrove's large hillside houses, wine-country resort hotels, weekend homes and thickly wooded yards. The same area burned in the last major fire here - the 1964 Hanley Fire - but at the time no one had yet built in the dry hills.
Local officials have questioned whether Fountaingrove should be restored. But given the extreme housing shortage, the City Council voted last month to approve 250 new homes for the neighborhood in addition to any that residents rebuild. Coursey voted against the project.
"I'm not ready to say that we're just going to go ahead and pretend nothing happened," he said. "We've got to put housing up there. But in addition we need to think about how to do it differently to make sure we don't end up with 250 piles of ash."
After the fire burned through Fountaingrove, a cascade of sparks began hitting the timberlines on the east side of six-lane Highway 101. Then the oaks and eucalyptus exploded, casting off embers the size of basketballs that the heavy winds blew hundreds of yards away. The fire jumped the highway, unimaginable before that night.
A Kmart burned to the ground. So did the extended-stay hotel next to it. Then the flames cut an aimless path through a business district before sweeping into working-class suburbia.
"We never thought it would reach this far," Okrepkie said.
Since its construction in the mid-1980s, Coffey Park has been a place where families sought starter homes or affordable rentals, which filled with firemen, police officers, teachers, diner owners, government workers and insurance salesmen.
Now the easiest way to find it is to follow the dump trucks. They pass the "Coffey Park Rises" sign at the four-way stop and the one next to it that reads: "Want to rebuild your home or sell your lot?"
"It was the heartbeat of the city," said Okrepkie, a commercial insurance salesman and now president of the neighborhood's post-fire Coffey Strong advocacy group.
Like his neighbors, Okrepkie lost everything: his 2-year-old son Tillman's school projects and Christmas presents, the family's ornaments and photographs, keepsakes and computers.
He and his wife, Stephanie, married in April, and when it came time to begin tallying what had been lost and what would be needed again, they pulled up their three-month-old online wedding registry for reference.
Okrepkie began organizing the neighborhood group after he saw so much social media misinformation from Coffey Park residents, many of whom he had never met.
They didn't understand the rebuilding process. Some were getting wildly different settlements from the same insurance companies, and others were being quoted various prices from the same developers. Many had not had their property appraised in years and so had no idea what they should expect to get.
Okrepkie organized Q&A sessions, attended by hundreds, at the local community college, and helped form an elected board that plans to vote on how to spend donated money.
The group is building a website that will list each Coffey Park homeowner's insurance company, settlement amount, and builder quotes - leverage that has already helped some neighbors get better deals. But it will be months before he has a sense of who is staying.
His neighbor has sold her lot and moved to Costa Rica. The family across the street is planning to rebuild, but their lot is still in ruins, their son's torched basketball hoop standing sentinel in the driveway.
"Nobody knows what this place is going to look like," he said. "But it's going to look very, very different externally."
Nearly 40 years ago, those who bought in the new Coffey Park development could choose from eight floor plans, and since the fire, the planning department and some of the original builders have pulled those out of file-cabinet drawers.
Some builders are offering to reconstruct those homes with some changes, ideally if streets and blocks sign up together. Doing so in bulk could shave as much as 30 percent off construction costs.
John Allen, a project manager for APM Homes, said the company built 500 of Coffey Park's original houses. The firm brought the original draftsman out of retirement to update those floor plans, which he is offering to those looking to rebuild.
On a rainy recent morning, the neighborhood was busy with churning backhoes and EPA inspectors pulling asbestos out of some sites. Along Hopper Street, a Coldwell Banker "For Sale" sign stood in one lot, which Allen's company is negotiating to buy.
"It's a business opportunity," he said, explaining that buying lots and building one-off homes is more profitable. "But we prefer not to do it this way, not here."
At the corner of Hopper and Scarlet, a makeshift sign says: "Miss U Guys."
Jodi Curtis, who works for the county transit department, lives a few blocks away, on the far side of Coffey Park from the Okrepkie family, whom she had never met.
The house she learned was hers while on her honeymoon at Disneyland more than a dozen years ago burned to the ground, along with the Mickey Mouse ears that her husband traced in their backyard with lava rock.
The loss of the house remains raw, especially to the couple's 13-year-old daughter, Madison, who would not visit the site for a month afterward. The family has been living in a two-bedroom apartment, which Curtis says flatly "is not home."
Who returns matters to Curtis. It will determine who attends Madison's charter school, which never shut down after the fire.
"She's been in class with those kids since preschool," Curtis said. "So they had each other, and they had all gone through this same thing."
Curtis has picked a new design to replace the lost home, and she is excited. It will be her choice rather than a fixed plan. A few others on her street have done the same, and she believes the neighborhood that emerges will be stronger than the one that burned.
"The community already has come out a lot closer," she said. "Now we just want to get our routine back to normal."