Martin Luther King said “The Arc of the Moral Universe is long but moves toward justice,” expressing the kind of hope that keeps us fighting for our children and something bigger than ourselves. The international agreement between Europe and Turkey that treats more than 3 million lives as a commodity is not moral, as the unfolding events here in Greece have already made clear.
I am heartbroken, like so many others, that Europe today adopted an illegal and inhumane agreement to deport refugees from Greece to Turkey.
Hope is a word you hear a lot on Lesvos. Many here talk about how lucky they have been to have met so many people who have lost everything but still have hope. This week I was inspired again to have welcomed a boat to shore. After hearing that a lot of boats would be landing south of Mytilene, Jo from England and I drove over the mountain to Mytilene. We arrived at about 6:30am at “Campfire,” where the NGOs stand watch all night, and met Cedric, a photojournalist from Paris. Several boats had arrived before dawn, escorted in by Frontex or the Coast Guard.
Yesterday, I traveled with Oakland friend Nanci to Moria refugee camp, 35 miles south of where I am staying in Molyvos. Moria is designed to be a way station, a place where refugees can stay for a day or two while they are going through registration with the Greek government before they board ferries to Athens. It is likely to become something longer term as the Greek government tries to manage the back up from here to the closed Macedonian border.
As I settle in here and talk to locals and volunteers, I hear so many amazing stories. The community of Lesvos has made a difference in the lives of so many and has itself been profoundly transformed by the refugee crisis.
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.
During my first few days back in Molyvos, I have been settling in and trying to find my Greek center. I am staying in a small traditional cottage just outside of Molyvos next to a grove of olive trees with sheep — the two staples of the Lesvos landscape. It is quiet and comfortable and adorable.
I arrived on Lesvos on Friday as Macedonia shut its borders and left tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece without adequate shelter, food or water. Ten Balkan countries, lead by Austria, declared they would no longer admit Afghan refugees inside their borders and would impose strict procedures on others.