My Refugee Journey – 16th March 2016

Pakistani Refugee protesting at Better Days for Moria Refugee Camp against deportation
Pakistani Refugee protesting at Better Days for Moria Refugee Camp against deportation

My Refugee Journey – 16th March 2016

Today started off with catching up with a bit of admin and preparation on a visit to the Mayor’s Office here in Mytilini…  Today at the Mayor’s office was just chatting about things in general and sorting interviews with the Mayor, Vice Mayor and other officials before I leave on 6th April.

Whilst I was there I was presented with a limited edition book called The Passage which is full of some amazing drawings depicting the Refugee Crisis and features a poem about the crisis by Bertolt Bretcht which Ive copied and added at the bottom of this blog for you all to be able to read.  The art work was provided by Konstantinos Maniatopoulos.

After the short visit to the Mayor’s office it was off to Better Days for Moria Camp (Afghan Hill) where the Pakistani residents of this unofficial tented camp were putting on a peaceful protest against the now inevitable Deportation of around 500 Pakistanis currently on the camp.

Pakistani refugees protesting in Lesvos against deportation
Pakistani refugees protesting in Lesvos against deportation

Due to the definition of ‘Refugee’ Pakistanis and other nationalities that reside at the camp such as Moroccans now face deportation, they basically have three choices…

1: Accept deportation to Turkey

2: Accept deportation back to their home country

3: Apply for asylum in Greece, though this automatically starts the deportation papers and the chance of getting asylum for these people is almost zero.

So at 3pm today the protest was arranged and to coincide with a visit from UNHCR Ambassador and actress Angelina Jolie.  Though Angelina’s visit was cancelled at last minute and she did not end up visiting the island of Lesvos.

The camp is full to capacity with the majority of these refugees now with nowhere to go, their journey forward into Europe has ended.  The protest was organised by the Pakistani members of the camp with the support of the Better Days for Moria volunteers.  A large number of press and media from around the world attended to cover the protest, though I have to wonder if many actually turned up thinking Angelina Jolie was attending as the situation at Better Days is not really of interest with the mainstream media.  The media are more concerned with the plight of the Syrian refugees first then Iraqi and then Afghan, and everyone else is almost forgotten about.

In fact up until recently Better Days for Moria was seen by the volunteer community as an unofficial camp set up by activists and anarchists and yes there are a few of them there, but on the whole having met many of the volunteers at the camp, they are no different to volunteers at Kara Tepe and across Lesvos.

During the protest I was approached by a member of the Better Days for Moria volunteers who had a Pakistani with her who is facing deportation, asking if I would like to interview him.  His story was an adventure or desperation, horror, danger and almost death.  I will add his interview as a separate article and post later.

So Who Counts as a Refugee?

1: A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.

2: A refugee is someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.

WAR AND ETHNIC, TRIBAL AND RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE ARE LEADING CAUSES OF REFUGEES FLEEING THEIR COUNTRIES.

Over 60million people are displaced from their homes, and are categorised in to three groups:

Immigrants – A word in the UK that has especially in recent years sparked much debate with many people wanting migration to the UK decreased.  Migrants are people that leave their country by choice and for many reasons such as work.  These people can often be professionals such as Doctors.

Migrants – This category of people also leave their country by choice in order to improve their quality of life for social and economic reasons.

Forced Displacement – 60million people, men women and children who have no choice but to flee their homes, fleeing from persecution, war and violence.  They have no other option but to flee for their lives.

The 60million who are displaced fall into three different categories:

Internally Displaced People:

Who are people that are forced to move into safer areas of their country and have not crossed any international borders?

Refugee:

This group of people have no choice but to cross borders into other countries and can be unable to go back to their country of origin for up to 17yrs.  Sometimes more.

Asylum Seekers:

These refugees are people who once they have crossed international borders seek sanctuary in another country and have made a claim for asylum and waiting for a decision to be made from the country they have applied to.

So how many are fleeing? Well in 2015 1million refugees from Syria alone headed to Europe…  If the number of displaced people were a country, they would be the 24th largest country in the world.  Over half of the 60million are children.

What does 60million people look like? Well take the whole of the Californian and New York population and you have your answer.

In 2014 42,500 people were displaced every day.

1 in 122 people in the world have been forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution.

This is the current climate we live in and unless the international leaders come together and finally agree on a solution to the current refugee crisis, more refugees will die fleeing war and terror and Europe will be at the grips of the worse refugee crisis in history for a long time to come.

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