My Refugee Journey – 17th March 2016
Today I was helping out with a local group of Greek ladies who live here on the island of Lesvos. They have been making thousands of sandwiches now for two months heading down to the port to hand them out to refugees heading for Athens three times a week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
They are a well oiled machine, churning out the sandwiches – on one table they fill the sandwiches and then pass it on to the kitchen counter for other to wrap in tin foil. Once the sandwiches are done, it’s off down to the port for about 2hrs where they meet up with others adding the sandwiches to snack bags with apples, drinks and other goodies. These ladies are part of what I call the unsung heroes of the refugee crisis, spending several hours a day and money to help strangers from another land looking for salvation.
There are over 1000 foreign volunteers on Lesvos as well as the local volunteers that live on the island. Seeing how the local population rally round to help the refugees, you get an understanding about why many have called for the people of Lesvos to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
After a while handing out sandwiches I headed off to see for the first time the refugees boarding the ferry. Again its hundreds of people standing in line, from the moment they arrive by their small boats on the shores of Lesvos, the refugees line up for everything, to get on the coach to the camp and some degree of comfort, then line up for food three times a day, lining up for a cup of tea, a sleeping bag, a blanket, shoes and clothes.
At the ferry port, the refugees are split up into two lines, one for families and one for single men… I watch the Greek Coast Guard target the line with the single men, searching bags and checking IDs and papers that have been issued to every refugee on arrival at Camp Moria. The Coast Guard find a number of fake papers and find a number of Pakistanis claiming to be Syrian with fake papers stating they are Syrian. One of the coast guards shows me the papers and where they can tell they are fake. The stamp I’m told is good but it’s the wording, it’s obviously provided by someone that is not Greek, as the lettering and words are incorrect, words in Greek spelt wrong. These papers cost 200euros to the refugees/migrants. So for 5 young Pakistani men, their Refugee Journey is over, they will be detained and either sent back to Pakistan or Turkey. You see the faces of these young men and you see the face of despair and sadness. For the average Pakistani refugee/migrant they will pay a network of smugglers stretching from Pakistan to Turkey between 7000euros and 10,000euros. Once on Lesvos, they will also try to get fake papers costing more money and then purchase their ferry ticket which is 45euros to Athens. Money basically wasted. A journey ended. Detained until deportation.