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Reports From A Greek Island

From Ann Panagiotonacou, on Lesvos;

Since Jan 2015 alone, over 500,000 refugees have arrived on Greek islands from Turkey – 100’s have been drowned.  Children, even babies arriving without parents;  parents arriving without their children; mothers arriving with some or all of their children without fathers and fathers arriving with all or some of their children without mothers.  Mothers arriving with 2-3 day old babies and even pregnant mothers arriving only to give birth right on the beach or, if lucky enough, in a more comfortable place.

Many travelling without life jackets, others with false life jackets stuffed with grass.  30-50 people being forced to travel in old inflated dinghies built for 5-10 people, most of them already with slow leaking holes and arriving near Greek islands in devastating conditions, and pleading to the Local people & the 100’s of Volunteers to save them.  Others put on non seaworthy wooden boats with huge problems – 2 weeks ago, on one of these boats, the top floor collapsed due to weight, causing the boat to capsize & sink, drowning 40+ people, among them many children. One boat has gone missing with 300 people on board and another  with over 200 on board & there is so much more.  These people are paying $1500-2500 a head to the smugglers in order to make the trip.

The courage, love & hard work of the Individual Volunteers & new Organisations  can only be admired & respected – often working an 18hr day, including through the night. It is the Volunteers  who are making a difference for the  refugees.

European TV & Papers make good stories about the bad conditions Greece is offering to the refugees but Greece is a collapsed economy which can not even feed its own people at present, The sick have to take their own bedding to hospital because hospitals have no money even for basic necessities  Volunteers are doing sterling work but more are needed.  Thousands of people from all over the word have come to help Greece provide for the refugees. The refugees need medical help, clothing which has been donated from all over the world needs sorting. Lessons and play groups for the children.  The list is endless. Even two or three days as a volunteer on one of the refugee islands can help to make a vast difference to people who fled their war stricken countries for a better life in Europe.

Now in my 5th day on Lesvos. I have travelled to a lot of the camps all over the island. The work being done by the Volunteers is amazing. It has to be seen to be believed. I’m stationed in Mytilene town. By the time the refugees arrive in the nearby camps, they already have been given dry clothes & food & buses to transport them from their arrival place up north, Molivos, & although exhausted, frightened & confused many of them gave a smile on their faces. All thanks to the volunteers.  Fortunately the weather has been beautiful for the past 3 weeks but  today there are strong winds at sea.. The refugees  crossng tonight will be safe.

To become a Volunteer give your time and contact The Starfish Foundation on Lesvos


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