Sam Nemeth on Fri, 15 May 2015 19:39:06 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Fwd: refugee entering EU reports via Whatsapp on journey

   Syrian refugee reports via Whatsapp on his journey through the Balkans

   Ideas' Odyssey

   'We saw them coming up the beach on the morning after our arrival: 40
   or 50 people with hardly any possessions. Wet and exhausted. We were
   devastated and decided the only thing we could do was help,' says Becky
   Thompson, university researcher from Boston, on Lesbos for a yoga
   course. Her travel companion Irene Harriford: 'Weâre involved, we have
   to. This morning Becky was waving at the beach to signal where the
   boats could land safely, after we heard the UN helicopters and knew
   they were coming.'

   This summer an exodus from the instable countries -to use an euphemism-
   around the Mediterranean and much further is really taking place: on
   the Greek island of Lesbos the numbers of refugees who sail the 7 miles
   from Turkey in cheap Chinese dinghies have increased from 50 to > 500 a
   day. A humanitarian disaster is taking place on one of the EU's most
   popular holiday destinations.

   Everywhere on the island we see refugees, individuals or groups. At
   night we hear helicopters flying up and down the coastline. Sometimes
   the coastguard calls to the dinghies through their megaphones. We talk
   to a local coastguard officer who is clearly impressed by what is going

   âWe have this problem for a while,â says the president (mayor)
   Athanasios Andriotis of the village of Molyvos 'but in these numbers
   the situation is spinning out of control.' He receives us in the
   municipality, and the conversation is translated by civil servant
   Theodora, who studied sociology in the UK. The Greek have a soft spot
   for refugees. Almost everybody on the island has a refugee in the
   family, the result of 400 years of Turkish occupation and WO2. But the
   problems they have now are bigger than their personal involvement. A
   political solution has to be found, on short notice, say both Theodora
   and the president.

   The approach of the Greek police is lenient. They collect people, take
   their names and send them to the refugee camps in Mytilini, the capital
   of Lesbos. Then they are taken to Athens, in large cruise ships.

   âI haven't had a moment of rest in two weeksâ, says the Molyvos' chief
   of police, who later appears to be the husband of Theodora. She worries
   about her husband: âif he's home he's silent. He stares, that's all
   he's capable ofâ

   During our days on Lesbos we get more and more involved. In the small
   fishing harbor the refugees get 'first contact' aid in the restaurant
   of Melinda Mc Rostie. Melinda is the spider in the web of the local aid
   group. She distributes water, food and clothing, assisted by other
   volunteers. We see her giving orders when a large group is outside of
   her restaurant. 'I just do this, but how long I can take this, I cannot
   say', says Greek/Australian Mc Rostie, 'my restaurant is closest to the
   harbor and they are just here, first with few, now with sometimes 400 a
   day. This is an exodus'.

   And of course we start helping too when the next group arrives. We make
   sandwiches and listen to their stories.

   âI thought for a long time Syria would recoverâ, says Ideas, from
   Damascus. âBut after 4 years of misery and violence I just could not
   cope anymore. I'm a student and there is hardly any educational
   infrastructure, for nobody. We left yesterday and were sent back by the
   Turkish coastguard, this morning I left again, for another 1000 $ (the
   set fare for an illegal journey from Turkey) and was scared that we
   would not make it because I'm broke. But thanks to Allah we made it.'
   Ideas is the only one in his group who speaks English. He says the
   traffickers tell the refugees they have to say they come from Syria, in
   order to get their refugee status. 'In truth our group consists of
   Afghans, Pakistani and Iranians, apart from about 50% Syrians.'

   The beaches of Lesbos are littered with cheap Chinese dinghies and life
   vests. The island tried for years to make the best of it and save their
   livelihood -the majority of islanders depends on the tourist industry.
   But all involved insist that's over now. They need a realistic solution

   The president, but also the Molyvos' police criticize the second treaty
   of Dublin stating refugees have to be taken care of in the first
   country of arrival. âThis policy is for all PIGS-countries (Portugal,
   Spain, Italy and Greece) not realistic. The economically most
   challenged countries of the EU have carry the heaviest burden.'

   We speak with Dutch tourists (60% of the tourist population of Lesbos).
   Most of them are in denial. 'We are on holiday and weren't aware of
   this', says Irma van Tuil from Elst in the Netherlands. After being
   stimulated by Becky Thompson she joins her to support the refugees.
   She's the exception. Most tourists, confronted with this disaster,
   don't know how to respond to it. They discuss it when having dinner in
   one of the harbor restaurants, overlooking the first contact aid. The
   awkwardness of the situation does not seem to get through to them.

   We stayed in touch with Ideas since our visit to Greece. He has been
   transported to Athens, which was completely crammed with refugees. His
   group is currently taking the Balkan route: they're walking from Athens
   to Hungary, and from there on further to the countries that hopefully
   will take them. This is a hazardous trip, with robbers and police
   chasing the refugees, sleeping rough and lack of food and water most of
   the time. The group has just crossed the border between Greece and
   Macedonia. The police have sent them back once, so this was their
   second run. We keep on following Ideas and telling his story.Â

   pictures on:

   more on Ideas and ourselves on our website:

   Sam Nemeth
   tel: 31 6 25365300

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