“Hundreds of refugees and migrants arrive in Sarajevo every week, many after attempting to cross the Croatian border. Countless people have shown me injuries, smashed or stolen phones (to prevent them orienting themselves with GPS, or to stop them contacting their friends) and told stories about their money and other objects (sleeping bags, blankets, food etc) being stolen by the Croatian police. Thankfully, these stories are now beginning to be scrutinized on the international stage, but for a long while they were unheard.”
An open letter to my wonderful new friends in Chios, Greece.
Dear Omar, Ahmed, Hasib, Baby, Kaled, and everyone else I had the privilege of volunteering with, eating with, taking chai with, laughing with, being told off by Greek neighbours with, being friends with, in Chios over the past week. New friends and old. I don’t really have the words, but here goes....
For the people living in The Olive Grove we found hardly any toilets (port-a-loos), no showers, just three concrete sinks for all washing - selves, dishes and clothes. And, despite the great work of groups including refugees from Moria naming themselves The White Hearts, and volunteers from Refugee 4 Refugees regularly clearing rubbish, it was still inevitably piling up….
We’re now more than three years’ on... Three years since the global refugee crisis landed in Europe. Three years since the image of 4-year old Syrian, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach sent shock-waves around the world.
Volunteers on the Greek island of Lesvos are now being largely silenced by the authorities who don’t want the world to see and hear the devastating truth about conditions for people in Moria Refugee Camp. Because in three years things are arguably worse instead of better.
I’m in Athens with our partner Rando of One Human Race and, as always, he’s good friends with many of the refugees he’s supporting. Meet some of them below.
“Cut out the bureaucracy, treat them as human beings. They are not just numbers, they are human beings.” - Lisa Campbell, volunteer, Greece
M is 26, married, and from Syria. And he’s bored, so bored, after months’ stuck in Greece., so he volunteers with Rando translating Arabic as needed, which gets him out the shared flat and keeping busy.