My Refugee Journey – 17th February 2016

Volunteer clearing life jackets from one of the beaches on Lesvos
Volunteer clearing life jackets from one of the beaches on Lesvos

Today was the busiest day I’ve had since being here in Lesvos, which is about 10days now…  We started the day with a massive beach clean-up, which is where lots of volunteers from various groups/organisations here to support the refugees go to the beach and clear as much of the life jackets and small boats as possible.  The beaches in this part of Lesvos are rocks and pebbles, hard underfoot and very un-accessible, so we gather life jackets in large piles periodically and then carry them in bulk along the beach to the most accessible area to the nearest road for pick up.  This however can be a couple of kilometres carrying back and forth hundreds of life jackets, which when you have a mountain of then tied together across your shoulder they do start to weigh you down.  Very tiring work.

After this with a little break for dinner at the house we drove off to Kara Tepe, the camp where we are based from as during the day over 2000 refugees crossed the water from Turkey and have been processed ready for their journey across Europe.  For tonight most will stay in the camps.  More and more refugees arrive at the camp and we are still handing out sleeping bags, blankets, clothes, shoes and food and cups of tea till gone midnight.  Myself and one of the other volunteers are put on emergency call throughout the night also, though waking up the next morning we haven’t been needed or called out.

French Journalist filming the pile of life jackets collected by volunteers on Lesvos
French Journalist filming the pile of life jackets collected by volunteers on Lesvos

The weather has turned for the better over the past few days…  Today over 2000 refugees made it across from Turkey, the day before approximately 1000, the day before that 800.  In my 10days here so far approximately 100 have drowned or died from hypothermia.  47 died in just one day last week from one boat, that was the worse day so far since Ive been here.  But the weather is getting better, averaging 20degrees C now and the waters are calm and good for crossing, so Im sure we will expect regular large numbers crossing now.

With NATO and Greek Navy/Coast Guard intervening most boats are now picked up by the naval ships and only a few slip past and make it to the shores of Lesvos.  And hopefully with that, less and less fatalities will happen as larger numbers of refugees make the crossing.

I will finish with rumours, its amazing how rumours start and spread here on the island, today we were told that the Greek army were taking over the main refugee camp and the NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) are to be told to go, and many volunteers outraged by the idea but talking to a senior member of UNHCR I find that although the Greek Army are going to be deployed by the beginning of April, as far as they are concerned they are just there to help build the infrastructure and help with logistics in the main camp as the contractors are basically useless.


Published by mikebuss

Former British Soldier and Professional World Record Breaking Ultra Endurance Athlete... Now Freelance Photojournalist and co-owner of smmb media UK. Photojournalist - Adventurer - Athlete - Fitness Professional - PR & Marketing Contact:

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