Last September, upset and disturbed by the images of desperate people clinging onto dinghies, attempting to reach Europe, I flew out to Greece to volunteer for a month. Nearly 10 months later, I'm still here. 856,723 refugees arrived in Europe fleeing war and persecution in 2015, roughly two thirds of those through the Greek island of Lesvos where I lived, and whilst the flows have dramatically decreased in recent months, the need for help has not.
In the wake of the domino effect of border closures across central and Eastern Europe and the subsequent EU/Turkey deal around 60,000 men, women and children are now stranded in Greece. Some of them are living in appalling conditions in unofficial camps in Athens and the border regions, some are on the streets of major Greek cities, many are detained on the islands and treated like prisoners, some are living in anarchist run squats, but the majority are now residing in refugee camps dotted all over the country.
In the last six weeks, myself and another have visited most of the camps in Greece, both official and unofficial. Each site is different and conditions vary wildly. I've been profoundly moved by the reaction of the Greek people, who are already suffering under crippling austerity measures, who have embraced the notion of 'philoxenia' (love of the guest or stranger) and done so much to help and support refugees seeking a safe and peaceful life in Europe.
Because of the dramatic change in the situation of this refugee crisis, needs have also wildly changed. These new camps and their residents, supported by the hospitable Greeks, need our help. Their is a lack of information about asylum rights, a lack of basic goods such as shampoo and soap, a need for medical support, equipment and medicine and a pressing need to improve living conditions, especially as over 50 % of residents in the new camps are children.
Your previous generous donations have helped in a myriad of ways, I list just some of them here:
- Water, food and hygiene products for refugees.
- Ferry tickets and accommodation for destitute people
- A deposit for the rental of a new shelter for vulnerable refugees
- A set of dentures for a tortured man who couldn't eat because he had no teeth
- Mosquito repellent for several thousand people in camps where babies were hospitalised due to bites
After spending so long volunteering in this refugee crisis, I have a wide network of contacts and a good knowledge of the situation here in Greece. I feel there is currently more need on the Greek mainland and I am moving from Lesvos to Athens to sort clothes in warehouses, distribute goods in camps, ensure aid gets to where it needs to go and support refugee initiatives in the Greek capital for as long as I have energy to do so! Please help me support people and organisations here with donations so I can try to fill the many humanitarian gaps that still exist.
Thank you so much!!!!!!