We have arrived in the Greek islands to scenes of chaos, hardship, desperation but also of immense solidarity, friendship and humanity, especially grassroot solidarity from locals and visitors to the islands alike. We are now permanently based in Samos island after spending time in Kos and taking the time to check out the smaller islands . The smaller islands such as Symi showed signs of having hosted refugees previously but there were none there when we visited…. maybe they moved on from there willingly though the amount of patrol boats, not all of which we’re Greek, was a worrying aspect….So, as I said we are now based for the next few weeks in the larger island of Samos.
Here the refugees arrive every day, usually early hours of the morning from Turkey. They arrive on on all parts of the coast depending on which way their small rubber boat are carried and then usually have to walk kilometres to reach the port where they are processed. To be fair, here the registration and processing is done quickly and with some solidarity from the port police, but the vast numbers and strong sun still make it chaotic and distressing. Volunteer groups work alongside small numbers of NGO’s such as MSF and the red cross. Many locals wander to the port each day with food, clothes water ….but its never enough. Those arriving g from Syria are go through registration here but anyone arriving from other countries, Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds are bused away to a camp in the mountains that we have not been given permission to visit yet….but we continue to ask for. The registration takes one to two days here and they are permitted to purchase tickets for the evening ferry to Athens.
Meanwhile, there are a small number of shelters, previously used for victims of the earthquake in Greece a few years ago, but the numbers of needy far outweigh the numbers of cabins. Our policy, which Derek insists on implementing, is to get as many families with young children, elderly and injured into the cabins while we provide sleeping bags’ blankets and sometimes all we have is opened cardboard boxes to provide some relief and a chance to sleep to the others.
Everyone has a story, from the mothers travelling alone with young children, to the elderly ,broken hearted from having to flee in fear from their homes in their later years, the fathers determined to provide a better life , a chance of life, for his family, to the young couples scared of starting a life together in a war zone….nobody leaves easily and nobody makes this journey as the easy option…. We will share some these stories over the next few weeks…
They must travel light so they arrive with a small bag of essentials and the clothes they are wearing. Many belongings get lost at sea…. wallets, phone even passports…. but the loss of life at sea is the hardest to hear and bear. On arrival and once registered we provide water, blankets, we direct the injured to the volunteer doctors or the red cross. We get the babies and young children into dry clothes and nappies and find out who else needs what …. clothes, towels, food, toiletries, shoes, socks whatever…. We met a group of volunteers from Sweden in Kos, On Facebook they are ” Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something” We took a huge amount of their aid with us also to Samos. … They continue to assist in Kos… Massive thanks and admiration goes out to them.
But we need some help to continue …. we ask for donations, no matter how small, from groups, organisations or individuals, money to provide food ( bananas, apples, bread, baby formula etc), a little will go a long way….The European Union cut funding for refugees to Greece in June , so now all help is provided by volunteer groups and organisations such as ourselves, and only with your support…
Please use the PayPal link provided or contact us for bank details. Jennygraham7@gmail.com
As ever, we deeply need and appreciate your support….
Derek and Jenny.