No Country Is An Island

IMG_0040

For Lesvos, most of 2015 meant coping with the immediate needs of thousands of refugees arriving daily without help from government and little help from the world’s big NGOs. In the first two months of 2016, things have changed. The world has taken notice.

The international attention has brought help and more trouble.  European nations are panicking from the sheer numbers. The European Union is considering “solutions” to the refugee crisis that feature leaving the problem in Turkey, a poor country that has already taken in millions of refugees along with Jordan and Lebanon.  NATO will “help counter human trafficking” by patrolling the Mediterranean in warships, creating additional danger for the refugees who now cross the water under cover of darkness.

images

These ships will “deter human trafficking.” The smugglers are small operations on land.

On the more hopeful side, Frontex and the Greek Coast Guard are actively searching for refugee boats in Greek waters and bringing them on to Lesvos safely.

Hundreds of volunteers are here now working for more than 80 NGOs.  In addition to providing immediate support to new arrivals, volunteers  clean beaches, help provide services in overcrowded camps and find ways to make children smile.

IMG_0001

Thousands are stuck in Greece with the Macedonia border closing as thousands more arrive. The refugee camps here are now over capacity and people are hungry.

But the local residents who have done so much  over the past year have just received bad news.  Most of the charter flights that would normally bring tourists to this island in the summer have been cancelled for 2016.  Since virtually all of the tourist industry here is local, the effects will be mostly felt by local people — hotel and restaurant owners, shop owners, the farmers and fishers who supply restaurants and everyone who works for them.   After giving so much, the people here now find they are at risk of losing their livelihoods.IMG_0899Lesvos is beautiful and unspoiled and full of kind and soulful people.  It deserves to survive this crisis and for the people here to be recognized for what they have done.

IMG_0005

Made of refugee life jackets

“I was not a philanthropist.  This has changed me.  It has changed all of us.”

         —  Hotel owner on Lesvos.

 

4 comments

  1. Your reporting renews my faith in at least some of my fellow human beings. Such a contrast to the alarming and shameful political circus here at home.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s