Today of course, was another day at the warehouse. I had initially intended on working another 12 hour day to try to keep/catch up with the logistics at the port and at the camps.
For once the dynamics changed, but this time in my favor. Around noon about 12 people from Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders came to help. I had not intended on that many volunteers coming, and only had a dozen or less boxes. The game plan immediately went from sorting clothes and boxes to sorting and labeling shoes. For about 5 hours all of us worked together, and the majority of the shoes are finally labeled and put in the right boxes.
The past two weeks I have intensely worried about shoes, and until a week ago had none. Then donors came and bought shoes, but they need to be taken out of their individual boxes, labeled on the back their size, tied together, and then put in a big box. This expediates the process of changing wet refugees over, as well as prevents trash from piling up all over the island. Together we were able to sort 70% of the shoes, and for the first time since I’ve been on Samos, I do not have that weighing on me all night long.
The ferry strike ended, so roughly 400 refugees were able to take the ferry to Athens. This alleviates a lot of stress for both refugees and volunteers. The kitchens will be able to save some money not feeding as many, as well as not have to use as much man-power. The NGO’s and volunteers will have a much easier time with logistics, and the refugees will not be as crowded. Tensions and stress will begin to diminish again.
There is a dark cloud on the horizon. Today we received no refugees as did the other islands. This has been happening for several days, and today we found out why. The Turkish Coast Guard and Navy are now coordinating with the Greek Coast Guard and Navy. They have been heavily patrolling the straits between the islands and Turkey so the smugglers have not been sending refugees. Turkey will now escort or fill their own boats with refugees and then transfer them immediately to the Greeks in international waters. Though this will minimalize the lives lost in the crossing, it will end the volunteer work on the islands. For the next two weeks the Greek military will continue to drop refugees off to Lesvos for registration, but then after that no refugees will be coming onto the island. The Greek military will immediately take refugees on boats or from the Turkish military to one of two detention camps on mainland Greece.
The media says that the camps will be “open-in-and-out,” but there is no way that a government would spend that much money without a reason. These two camps are abandoned military bases. A few days ago it was proposed that the Greeks make a detention camp for refugees to stay in so as to not enter the EU or Schengen. FRONTEX is also working with the military now, which focuses on closed borders and preventing immigration. It seems that Greece and Turkey military are working together, which before hand they did not tolerate each other, so that Turkey can get the 3 billion euro from the EU and Greece will be pardoned 50 euro from the EU. Greece will be allowed to stay in the EU and Schengen if they stop the flow of refugees. There is no way that the broken Greek economy would spend money on military action without deeper reasoning. The news is saying that any volunteers helping the refugees after two weeks will be arrested immediately. That should not be an issue since the refugees will no longer be coming to the islands on their boats, and those that do will end up in detention camps. News travels, if the refugees in Turkey and other countries hear that they will end up in detention camps and not allowed to leave they will stop coming here.
The dynamics are always changing. I had already planned on working in Turkey for a couple of month. It now looks like the entirety of the volunteers from Samos, Lesvos, Athens, and Chios will be moving to Turkey very soon. It will be hard to see all of the work we have done torn apart, but most of us have dedicated the next 20 years of our lives to helping refugees wherever they are at. We can start a new process, learn from our mistakes, and concentrate with more vigor together. We may have lost this battle on the Greek isles, but we haven’t lost the war. Until there are no more refugees, until there are no more borders, we will continue on as we have been doing so.