2016 and winter is approaching fast in Greece where we are preparing to spend the next few months. After spending a year in the refugee camp in Samos island (and the last 3 weeks here in Ireland) It is time to visit some camps along our way back to Samos. We recall the winter months in Greece last year as we carried victims and survivors from boats and coast lines, working the nightshift with a skeleton crew when NGO's clocked off for the night, walking the port camp in cold, wet windy nights to ensure those without cover had at least blankets, those without food were fed, those in need of medical attention received it and those just arriving were met with support, hope and attention. Sometimes it was just sitting around a campfire to listen to someone in need of a friend.There are now hundreds and hundreds of people stranded on the Greek border and the islands, many have been here for months. They wait in tents, they build fires to stay warm, and they watch the authorities, armed guards, patrolling the borders in case anyone would dare take the next step to achieving safety or refuge. They face in to another winter of misery, cold, fear, of losing hope in Europe, in mankind, in Humanity. These camps in Greece have little to no infrastructure and will be the first to face the winter. Flooding is common and another hazard to face. Some will no doubt face death, hunger, violence. The Greek Albanian border is hostile in places. Forests with warnings to be alert for bears and wolves, jagged mountains and deep abysses are regularly patrolled. In March, Albanian and Italian police started joint patrols of the border in a bid to stop migrants traveling onward into Europe. Many if not all of those seeking refuge that are now stranded on the border have already gone through one of the Island camps. They have gone through the humiliations we have witnessed in Samos, the lack of information, bad nutrition, uncertainty and inadequate housing. They will already be stressed, unhealthy, exhausted and now face winter in yet another camp.
It has been a long hard Summer for so many but winter, with its cold and its darkness, Christmas in all its loneliness for so many and the prospect of facing into another year of war, conflict, death, fear and hatred is more than some of these people can face.
So, we ask again, in fact we are pleading for one more big effort this year. Our plan is to arrive with just the basics and to make a needs assessment on arrival. We hope to have enough funding to make at least part of the living conditions more bearable. As human rights activists we will protest the living conditions, fight for more forthcoming information and a right to refuge and as humanitarians we will try to improve basic needs and rights.
Please do what you can to help us help them. We , as always, deeply appreciate your support to us over many years and hope these friendships ( new and old ) continue. Thank you.