My Refugee Journey – 26th February to 29th February 2016
Well it’s been hectic! Boats are coming across from Turkey at a much bigger rate – It’s been so busy Ive not even had chance to write my blog onto the word doc before I post it to my website. So although I have everything in my head of the past few days, I can’t remember what events happened on what days, so I will have to just write what I remember in chronological order and the rest will just have to fit in between.
Right here we go, using facebook posts to help me…
So it was back on the OP on the coast watching out for boats being driven by smugglers dropping off refugees in a cove close to our camp Kara Tepe, as usual I had no boats in my area, and so was very quiet. But along the Lesvos coastline boats are coming in and we are going to e expecting more and more boats increasing every day from now on with the weather improving.
The average temperature here in Lesvos during the day is 25degrees C, the water between Turkey and Lesvos at night is as smooth as a mirror – very calm.
As well as the numbers starting to increase coming to Lesvos we have the Macedonian Boarder closed, and Greece has decided to stem the flow of refugees getting to Athens by stopping the Ferrys from Lesvos to the mainland. This is going to keep the refugees already here on the island and with more arriving the camps are going to get very busy.
Moria Camp holds 2000 – Kara Tepe holds 1500 – and then there is the unofficial camp Afghan Hill.
On average 850 to 900 refugees are coming to Lesvos every day, so within 4 days we could see a big problem with space for refugees on the island.
With the camp getting so busy, we’ve had to ditch the OP duty watching out for smuggler boats and I’ve been brought into the camp to support there… My body is secretly shouting YEH!!! I’m not 20yrs old anymore, my body stuck in a very rocky hole in the ground for 8hrs of every night has taken its toll as Im now on the plus side of 40yrs.
I was put on tea duty, which is my favourite duty serving hot tea Syrian style, which is more sugar than tea, but they love it! You really get to interact and chat to the refugees and have a laugh with them. On a serious note, at about 1:30am I had a few refugees turn up at the camp from Moria Camp, they had been separated from the rest of their family and were quit distressed with the situation, but with the help of a member of the UNHCR we located the rest of the family and reunited them. A nice end to the night on duty in camp before I headed back to my usual sport looking out for smugglers coming in to Lesvos. By 6am I was very much in need of my bed after a very long and busy day.
1800 refugees reach Lesvos; the numbers are really starting to increase now… My duty on the OP has now been fully suspended for now and I’ve been moved back into camp as my main duty. And again I’m on tea duty, so Im happy and so is my back.
I have heard of a very serious incident on the island that happened up north with a volunteer, Ive located the whistle blower and arranged to met her. This incident Im putting into a separate post of its own as I’ve thought long about should I even post the information, but I was plenty shocked to decide to release the information and also give my findings to UNHCR and to inform Greek officials about it.
My new Syrian friend Safwat is still on the border of Greece and Macedonia… He’s now been sleeping on the streets for 9days in the cold conditions under just a blanket. The media that I’m seeing here is that Macedonia have opened the border with Greece and letting 50 people through the border every hour, but Im being told its only 50 people a day getting through the border which might as well be nothing. He also says the numbers are more like 8000 refugees at the border.
So Im enjoying my duty back in camp and not on the coast with rocks in my arse, but my smile chatting with the refugees on camp is about to end… A male refugee comes to me not knowing a word of English apart from ‘Thank you’ I help him with getting a sleeping bag visit the doctor for medication as he has a bullet in his leg that can’t be taken out and I help him with a couple more things and get him some tea. Later he comes back and looking still very distressed, he tries talking to me in Arabic which I can’t really understand but his hand gestures help and I get the feeling hes trying to tell me what happened to him in Syria and I guess hes talking about bombs but I still cant fully understand, I find someone to translate for me and what I here was horrific! Even for a soldier like myself hearing what he was telling me through a translator did almost reduce me to tears, I don’t mind admitting.
I won’t go into the full details as its too graphic in the words he told me, but I will tell you this… I think he needed to tell his story to someone and I was there at the time and had helped him with several things and I guess he sort me out as maybe he had some trust with me, maybe felt at ease with me having built some kind of relationship that night, I think he needed to get off his chest what had happened to him and his family.
He said the Russian/Syrian bombers had bombed his house, he was in it with the rest of his family, but not in the same area of the house, and the bomb hit, exploding the building with him and his family in it. He crawled from the house wounded but OK, he then went back into the rubble to find his family, but he was the only one alive. He carried each member of his family, his wife and small children out of the rubble covered in blood and lifeless, he describes their appearance in much more graphic detail to me but I will spare you all that picture, something I will now have to live with in my head for the rest of my life. You could see the extreme pain in his eyes and in his voice. Its the worse story Ive heard since coming to the island of Lesvos.