The boats continue to arrive on Samos island. After paying 1200 dollars per person in Turkey the refugees are pilled, between 30 and 45 in a small rubber dinghy and pointed in the direction of Greece with no GPS and no captain and despite the large amount of money, they regularly do not have enough fuel for the journey.. Some but not all make it and are rescued by the Greek coastal patrol, some veer off course and hit rocks and some capsize. For those that do make it, they arrive wet, scared, hungry, burned from the sun and totally dehydrated, many have lost everything and whatever they manage to hold on to is usually soaking wet.
Once they arrive on the port, they are divided into two groups, Syrian and non Syrian. We have worryingly, still not been given permission to visit the camp holding those not arriving g from Syria. For the Syrians, once registered they are free to leave the port while waiting for the next ferry to Athens, which now departs every 2 days with thousands on board. The vast majority remain in the port for various reasons, some just can’t afford even the cheaper of hotels but most are too scared to leave.
Derek and I stay on the port for between 10 and 12 hours a day along with a small number of others volunteers. There is a Greek doctor, Manos, here, one of the most humanitarian and decent people I have had the pleasure to work alongside. His support to the refugees, his demeanour and his friendship means he is asked to go above and behind his remit , and he does so seven days a week.
Our priority when the boats arrive is to get those in need of medical help to Dr. Manos or the red cross field tent. Many children are severely dehydrated so sips of water, milk or vitamin drinks are distributed. Many kids have also not made it to a toilet on time so we get them dry and changed. Men, women and children are all wet and we provide what ever dry clothes we can, trying to at least make sure everyone has dry socks and underwear, a blanket or a mat , some water , some energy biscuits from the UN or some bread donated. Derek then gets as many of the families, elderly and children in to the empty cabins ( see last post).
By now the port police and any NGO’s have left for the day so the volunteers and Manos remain behind. We continue to give out whatever we have been donated, perhaps buy more food and water if possible. Because of a desperate lack of funds, we are constantly rationing whatever we have or worse, we can not give someone the most basic of help … I cried the day I could not even provide sanitary pads to a young woman .
We stay well in to the night trying to make sure everyone is safe, those having to sleep outside at least have a jacket or blanket a mat …something…anything… Sometimes We just sit and talk, many people just want to know what happens next, or they want someone to listen. The children, resilient as ever, have now found the toys we keep for them and are doing what kids do best… just living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow….they leave that to mama and papa.
As the sun goes down, we sit cross legged together listening to their reason for leaving, their hopes for a future in Europe, their dreams of returning home their enormous gratitude for those of you who have helped and continue to support and total despair of being in this situation at all.
Tomorrow we start again. Our day usually starts the same. We drive from our small rented room to the port and pick up as many of the hundreds we pass on the road as possible. We desperately, desperately need help, we need funds to continue. Can you donate? Can you fundraise? Can you at least share our updates in the hope that someone can offer us some help? We are all a part of this ….