The Refugee Crisis with volunteering - in short !!!
2015-2016 : So this is what is was like when the refugee crisis was at its peak - with refugees arriving in their hundreds every day.
The overwhelming arrivals was a shock to the locals who were already going through an economic crisis and maintain stability during a tourism season. Their lack of experience and unwillingness to help the situation in the best way for all meant that the tourism season was disrupted and damaged in the worst possible way.
The inexperienced volunteers and NGOs then also were the cause of a problem becoming bigger and uncontrollable. The non-existence of large world-wide experience NGOs meant the problems were present for longer than they should have been, with refugees suffering greatly with locals disruptions.
The north of Lesvos was the hardest hit with disruption and disorganisation as the refugees had to be transported to the south for registration and at the beginning of the crisis it was illegal for their transportation on local transport and so they were forced to walk, not matter their age, health or disability, 65km along the local roads. A sight that was truly unacceptable, unforgiving and disgraceful.
These people have already walked for days from Syria through Turkey to Greece, so that they could get European and western-world hel. Their days of travel were full of severe danger, tiredness and desperation and to then have to walk 65km in the heat was just the last straw. Thats what you would think, but these people's true grit and stamina was and still is unimaginably high - for a better life and to live and not be killed or die.
Scenes like these where an everyday sight to locals and tourists, but also to concerning volunteers.
Teams of volunteers where set up on the coastline in the north and south to assist the refugees arrival as reaching the beaches was dangerous due to the rugged coastline but also because they would run out of petrol and some without life jackets. So rescue teams on SAR boats and beach based volunteers to assist were vital to these refugees so that they know people were around to care for them and ensure their safe arrival,although illegal, on the shores of Lesvos, both in the north and south.
Without these teams, many of the refugees lives would have been lost or seriously damages psycologically wtih just the experience itself. First time for most was the contact with the sea and likewise in a boat, never mind a rubber dinghi with 50-60others, squashed in like sardines.
The scene of boats arriving on shore full of people of different ages was like that of a movie/film. Unbelieveable feelings for these people who have been through hell to get to us with smiling faces of care. This continured until March 2016.
Since then the arrivals have declined dramaticallly deu to the EU agreement with Turkey to accommodate the refugees in Turkey and then to be sent to the EU countries.
After a very harsh winter 2016-2017, with poor Moria camp conditions and servere sanitary problems people were moved to hotels and rental rooms as well as other sites.
Volunteers have still been around on the island despite the low arrivials to support those still on the island and in the camps.
March 2017 : With the odd arrival per week the refugees and economic migrants arriving are still taken to Moria for registration.
Moria still has single men and some women from African decent. Kara Tepe has families and it has double in capacity with families, mostly Syrian and other establishments like Pikpa have also taken on more special cases and families. Others have gone into local rental accommodation.
The plans of UNHCR - The families in local accommodation will be transfered to mainland camps. Kara Tepe will remain to 1500 capacity, Pikpa with stay as it is with Moria returning back to only a registration site.
So you start to think about what kind of deportations will take place.!
Many detailed personal accounts could be mentioned and will be some day as these memories and this unbelieveabel experience for me and all volunteers and teams concerned will never be forgotten. We will be talking about this worldwide mess created by us all for many years to come.
Please contact me if you wish to volunteer, for information on whats happening on Lesvos but also for a local's hands-on truthful perceptive on the whole crisis - ngos, volunteers and organisations presence on Lesvos.
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