Tag Archives: Lesvos

9.29.2016

29 September 2016
              I have recovered enough to not allow what ever ailed me to inhibit my actions here on the ground. Due to new scheduling, I can spend my morning on admin and logistics, filter through the endless emails, Facebook and WhatsApp messages, and sleep a little bit longer in the morning. I still have a bit of a cold, but continuation of fresh lemons, garlic, and herbal teas should expediate the recovery process.
              We continue to do our double-shift of clothing distribution to ensure everyone in the camp has clothing enough to accommodate the autumn weather. The pressure on the distribution cabin is overwhelming as inhabitants of the camp come for warm clothing. In order to ensure that clothing is allocated equally and to prevent an unmanageable mob in front of the doors we have an assessment system. Since the camp is on a hill, there are levels; we access needs level-by-level, door-to-door. While we accept children and the elderly for jackets and jumpers (cardigans, fleeces, sweatshirts, sweaters), we must neglect the general populace until it is their turn to come for new clothing.
              We had 47 new arrivals yesterday, of which 7 were women and 16 were children. While most people know that they will be put into a detention camp upon arrival in Greece, the look of realization on new arrivals faces will continuously haunt me. Most spend the 5-6 hours of registration and fingerprinting talking to the other camp residents, and learn the impending duration of their stay in the camp. By the time I have contact with them, they’ve heard rumors from older camp residents, been poked and prodded by medical, fingerprinted and questioned by immigration, and sat without food. The feeling of hopelessness and confusion must be beyond comprehension. Yesterday there were two women with 6 children; every child was under the age of 5. We did our best to take care of them, since none of the children could carry the tents, blankets, and sleeping bags. Extra help if one could call it that, putting their new belongings in garbage bags and boxes to make it easier to carry.
              The situation here in Greece is getting worse with the host community. A little over two weeks ago there was a fire in the camp at Lesvos, leaving 4500+ people without accommodations. Initial rumor had it that the Afghani’s started the fire, but from many sources the fire started outside of the camp, near a group of 30-40 Greeks. Last night, there was a meeting here on Samos by a group of old elected officials to decided how to rid the island of refugees. In the past two years, Golden Dawn the extreme right-wing, went from 5,000 to 200,000 voters. Golden Dawn is a political party that was created by the government to combat the extreme left-wing, but soon lost control. On both Lesvos and Kos we have had issues with them, and as of late they have been flying members to the islands to stir-up discontention.
              While Golden Dawn is not comprised of all fascists, the economic instability and lack of government representation has allowed the group to grow. The Greeks suffer economically, last year the schools could not afford to heat the school The schools had to try to feed their students breakfast because they were fainting due to lack of nutrition. They have been accepting of the refugees, yet over the past few years have seen millions in dollars/euros sent to help the refugees, but none for them. They are being told we must have equality for the refugees by every organization, volunteer, and aid worker, yet there is no equality for them. Their government is blackmailed by the EU to stop the flow of immigration into the rest of Europe, but the government does not ask the citizens for their choice. I feel that there are dark days ahead of us.
              I must make my leave. This new schedule has allowed me to update my blog twice in one week, which is a blessing. There are some meetings I must go to now, some clothes to be handed out, and preparations for the next days to come.
Thank you all.
 

6.9.2016

It’s been 3 months since I left Greece and the refugee crisis. If there had been an easier and faster way to return I would have taken it without a moment’s hesitation. Rather, I spent the entirety of my time state-side working and saving money to pay for my bills back home in the states and to pay bills in Greece. While I would rather be volunteering in the field, it was somewhat refreshing to catch my breath, rekindle old friendships or forge new ones, network, and explain/tell the refugee crisis to those who knew little to nothing.
I will be staying in Greece until the end of August. My most current plans are to volunteer in Samos, Greece as the warehouse manager. Due to the Greek, EU, and Turkey sanctions our ability to volunteer may be/will be severely hampered in comparison to the beginning of the year. I’ll be spending tonight in Athens, Greece and will meet up with several volunteers I had worked with from the NGO “A Drop in the Ocean” from Norway. They are focused more in Athens and Idomeni where the bulk of the refugees in Greece are currently detained at. Depending on their needs I may find myself back on mainland Greece.
While I still have yet to reach my final destination I am relatively un-stressed in comparison to my first time out here volunteering. Flight changes and layovers have never been a problem with me. Last time I landed in Athens it was a shot in the dark as to where I was staying, how I was going to get there, where the ferry is, or who to even connect with once I made it to the islands. This time it is the complete opposite. I may even have someone to pick me up from the port when the ferry arrives in Samos.
I have no idea what the next few months may have in hold for me. Last time I learned a lot about myself and my relation to everyone else in the world, strengthened family and friend ties, met some great refugees and volunteers, and found myself immersed in the most electrifying atmosphere of humans helping humans. All I know is that I have never felt so right about myself until I began this chapter of my life, so I will continue and look forward to what life has to show me.

2.23.2016

2.23.16
              It’s 8 am in the morning and on a flight back to the US. I do not even know how to sum up the past few days. I felt so depressed and scared about going home. Had I not booked my return-flight in December for today I would still be on the Greek islands…
 
              It was five days ago that I returned to Lesvos. There were several people coming back for a few days, and several of us were to meet up to plan the next mission. Initially we were to all go to Lebanon the first week of March and stay there until August, so we really needed to figure out logistics. I was really looking forward to seeing them all: Kristina, Mari, Todar…
 
              We only spent two days together as they immediately planned on flying to Lebanon three days ago. I really did not spend much time with them since they were busy planning on their trip. Most of them were going for a few days, others were staying there for several weeks/months. Those going for a few days are capable of raising large amounts of money that can be used to help the refugees there as well as support the refugees. It was just a stressful two days, I feel I should have stayed on Kos rather than come back to see them. 
 
              What I can take away from my third trip back to Lesvos and my experience on the other islands is that things have changed. Back in December and earlier, volunteers were needed to fill the voids and to do the job that the large, international NGO’s were failing to do. Kos and Samos are completely run by UNHCR, WAHA, MercyCorps, Medecines Sans Frontiers, and Samaritans Purse. Each of those islands only have one grass-roots NGO. On this final return to Lesvos I was able to look at it from an outsiders view. I was less emotionally attached to Lesvos than those that were still there. Things had been put in place, structure and order had come to Lesvos.
 
I feel that the only reason the large NGO’s are not fully functioning on Lesvos is because the grass-root NGO’s are to emotionally attached and will not let them. Per example, the first day back on Lesvos, No Borders Kitchen was told to pack up. Instead they made a post asking for volunteers from around the island and the other NGO’s to stand in solidarity with them. It’s no longer time for the unpaid volunteers to be here cooking food, let the paid workers of Mercy Corps, MSF, or Samaritans Purse feed them. It’s their job, that’s what they are paid for. Of course Lesvos is much larger and receives more refugees, but 3000 refugees can easily be handled by the UNHCR and the other international NGO’s.
 
Todar and I had a conversation, halfway online, halfway with each other. Volunteering is becoming a thing or trend to do on one’s holiday. Partially because people want to do something bigger than themselves. Partially because they want the attention, to play a hero. You could tell that it was Norway’s mid-winter break this week. A Drop in the Ocean at Lesvos went from 5 volunteers up to over 20 in one week. Todar and I had talked about the “holiday volunteers” and how they will fill the gaps if we move on to the next mission. It brought up another subject. Money of course, or rather the waste of funding on holiday volunteers. Over the New Years holiday season, at any point in those 4 weeks there were 2000 volunteers on the island. Assumedly 3-4000 volunteers during the holiday season were on Lesvos. If each had raised $3000 to cover flights, accommodations, food, etc. relatively $10 million was raised for all the volunteers to do the same job at the same time.
 
The dilemma is all the media, volunteers, and funding is directed to Lebanon, but then, without them awareness could not be met. On the islands we have begun to see clothing donations slowing down, funding slowing down. Donors are getting weary, bored off Lesvos and the continuous messages for aid. When the next natural or man-made disaster help, aid is going to switch to there. We must begin to look at more sustainable means of helping the refugees on the Greek islands.
 
This brings me to the point of Lebanon. This is the next mission, I hope within three-four weeks I will be there for 2 months minimal up to the end of August. One in three people living in Lebanon are refugees. 10% of the  refugees there are Palestinian, they are on the third generation of refugees living in the camps there. 20% of the refugees in Lebanon are from Syria. These are the ones that could not come to Lesvos, they could not make the migration into Europe. According to the UNHCR there are just under 1.2 million refugees in Lebanon.
 
I’m hoping to figure out my funding and book a flight back out within the week. The farther I fly away from Greece and the refugees the more I feel hopeless and without a drive in life. Three weeks, that is all I will allot myself at home.
 

2.13.2016

2.13.2016
              The sun is rising in the east over Turkey, the church bells are ringing in the background, it is the morning of St. Valentine’s Day here in Kos, Greece. Unlike most other Valentine’s Days in my past, I am not sitting at a bar thinking about who I could or should be with, or spending luxurious amounts on a girl to prove to her that I am still worthy of keeping. This Valentine’s Day I am just about to fall asleep after driving up and down the wind-swept beaches of Kos, patrolling for boats and refugees who have come ashore. Today as I am about to go to bed, I spent my Valentine’s morning searching for humans who are trying to find people and nations to accept them and love them. I could ask for no better way than to have spent my morning.
 
              The Turkish Coast Guard and Greek Coast Guard have had a heavier presence on the Aegean Sea as of late. One cannot go half an hour without seeing one close by, with another coast guard boat in the distant horizon. I have yet to see one of the NATO warships yet here at Kos, but volunteers I have worked with on Samos have already seen them in the straits between Samos and Turkey. Turkey has received their 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion dollars) for slowing down/stopping the flow of refugees into Greece. Ever rising pressure from the EU on Greece, the finalization of the military hot-spots, and the added presence of NATO has almost stopped the flow of refugees into Greece. Yet we, the volunteers, are still manning our posts, ever vigilant, looking for humans that need help, until the day that we are no longer allowed to continue here in Greece.
 
              We have received no boats on Kos since I have begun patrolling the shores other than Osama’s family. Most of the other islands are under the same predicament. Volunteers are beginning to become a little anxious and antsy. It’s interesting and sad to see some of those who have come just to only be part of the beach rescue. These are the ones that we see online asking if any other islands are receiving boats, because theirs is not, and they want some “action.” While there is so much work to be done on Lesvos, like taking care of the camp, cleaning the island, and helping with the infrastructure, it is easy to see the ones that are here to build their own ego. They are the ones who want to have pictures of themselves with a baby, so that they can show their friends and the world on social-media how much of a hero that they are.
 
              I have been talking with some friends who have volunteered with me in Lesvos about future plans when and if we are no longer allowed to work here on the islands. We know it is not a matter of if, but rather it is a matter of when. The shores, especially at Lesvos, no longer need volunteers searching for boats and receiving refugees. The flow has almost stopped. While there are roughly 2000 volunteers on Lesvos, of which 1500 are vying to do the same task of beach patrols, only 20-40 are needed on the 30 km stretch of beach. The majority of these volunteers are holiday volunteers/short-term volunteers who have come for what they thought was a need or to depict themselves as heroes. Several hundred NGO’s have appeared and left after a short stay of a few weeks. Instead of coordinating and pooling resources they all simultaneously do the same task, wasting both volunteer time and funding.
 
              A small group of friends and associates are looking eastward as the international talks continue. Since we are no longer needed and will probably not be allowed to continue on the islands, we have turned our attention toward Turkey and Lebanon. Since many EU nations have doubled back on the Dublin Agreement, which means that they can deport refugees back to the country of registration, Greece, Greece could look at several hundred thousands of refugees inside of its borders. Greece has also decided that Turkey is a “safe third country” which means that Greece can deport refugees who made transit back to Turkey, not registration, but walked through Turkey. NATO has now deployed warships into the Aegean to turn back refugee boats to Turkey so that the flow of immigrants into the EU can be stopped. Summed up, there are 5+ million refugees that are already stuck in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. That is the reality of the refugee crisis, not Lesvos, not Kos, not Samos, not Leros, or Chios.  
 
              Myself and fellow group of volunteers are intending on heading to Lebanon. Some are going to head there at the end of the month, others will go there mid-March. I will be going there hopefully around the 10-15th of March. That allows me about 5-10 days left on my Schengen visa, enough time to make transit through Europe whenever I need to return back to the states. We are not sure how we will be able to be funded, some of the volunteers are selling their belongings, so that they no longer need to pay for an apartment. Most of us are going to try to end our responsibilities in our home nations so that we can save more money to continue our work rather than to uselessly pay bills for living and commodities that we no longer use. My one friend Todar, just returned to Lesvos today, and we talked via social-media for quite some time. If we cannot find the funding, we have tents and sleeping bags, and we are more than willing to live in holes in the ground if that is what it takes. I thought that I had been volunteering of faith for funding already, but that was not the reality. A large portion of my funding has stopped due to bureaucratic paperwork, and though crowd-funding is trickling in, what I have to work with financially is shrinking dramatically. But this is what we do, we never really know exactly how it is going to work, but people need us, and we will find a way.
 
We always do.

2.8.2016

2.8.2016
 
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
 
              I’m sitting on a ferry from Samos to Kos. Since I have nothing but time I might as well as catch up on entering the refugee crisis. I thought that there was a direct flight from Samos to Kos but there was not, and the only ferry leaving was today. I had about three hours to pack up, do a quick run-down of my responsibilities, purchase tickets, and gain a semblance of a game-plan for the next day. I really have no idea what is going to happen on Kos, the Swedish volunteers who gave me a lift to the port had just come from Kos and told me that the police, municipality, and people were hostile toward the refugee crisis. I still do not have a hotel or car lined up, for that matter I will be the first of my NGO to arrive on this island.
 
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
 
             I have to take this ferry to a different island, Patmos, and have a “lay-over” for about 12 hours. The next ferry does not leave until 0330 so I am unsure if I should rent a hotel or just sleep at the port. If there is a building I will be fine with that, but if there is not I do not know if I want to chance the 30-40 degree temperature or spend money just to stay warm. First world problems.
 
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
 
 
              The ferry I am on is roughly 50 feet long. I’ve worked on boats back in Oshkosh the same size, so I am not to enthralled about riding this puddle-jumper across the Aegean Sea. I suppose if the propleller plane I took from Athens made it that I might as well keep on riding my luck. I am pretty sure my friend Mari would not have even stepped onto this ferry, the ferry to Athens was half the size of a cruise ship and she was hesitant. The good thing is that since Greece has 10,000+ islands I can vaguely see land the majority of the time, just in case…
 
 
 
 
              Current conditions for the migration have changed, are changing, and the changes are not for the best. Two days ago, Greece decided that Turkey was a safe third country. This means that the refugees can be deported back to Turkey. This does not mean the refugees who have registered in Turkey, but all refugees who have made transit through Turkey. If this passes, we are looking at 1-1.5 million refugees that could be deported back to Turkey at a minimal. Turkey already hosts 2.2 million refugees, and those are the registered ones. There are possibly 3+ million refugees in Turkey.
 
              Germany has begun to reverse their admittance of refugees. For the past several months they have been the number one destination for the majority of refugees. This is due to Germany’s economy and their youth leaving for better jobs. There has been a void of youth and able-bodied employable people. Now that Germany has gotten what they want, they want to seal off their borders.
 
              The past week there has been massive airstrikes on Aleppo, Syria. Turkey has closed off their borders with Syria. Two days ago there were over 35,000 Syrians fleeing the rubbles of what was once Aleppo. They are now congregated at the border with no chance to enter Turkey and with nothing left to call home. The coalition, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Cuba, the entirety of the world has destroyed Turkey and left nothing. I remember driving through Fallujah, Iraq and thinking “oh snap, what have we done?’ Fallujah from OIF, Dresden and London from WWII, and even the no-man’s land from WWI look like peaceful paradises in comparison to the wake of death and destruction in Syria.
 
              I had been intending to head to Turkey to scout where volunteers are needed, but I have friends already on the ground. This works out since my current mission is to help establish my NGO (A Drop in the Ocean) on the island of Kos. Many volunteers and groups from the islands believe that Kos will become the new refugee hot-spot. Do not mix this with the government hot-spots. The Greek and Turkish Naval and Coast Guard blockades have deterred the smugglers and refugees, but when one route closes another one opens. It looks like I will be here for a week+ to help, before returning to Lesvos to plan the next month or two with my friends.
 
              We are relatively sure that the volunteers will no longer be allowed to work in Greece, more especially the islands, within the next couple of months. As I have said before, all eyes are looking east. Even in Turkey we are unsure what we will be allowed to do, some volunteers have been arrested last week in Idomini. My friends are making a loop through Turkey, Lebanon, and possibly Jordan to see where and if we will be able to volunteer there. The issue that did come up with their travels so far was figuring out what zone they were in. Just like the military, there are safe-zones in Lebanon. They tier as such: Green, Yellow, and Red. Red is the most dangerous, Green is the most safe. My friends had booked their hotels in the red-zone which is Hezbollah country.
 
divider blk
Somewhere out there a voice cries in the darkness.
We can never bring them home or give them their homes back.
We can be the light in the darkness to guide the way.
divider blk
 
              I forsee us either working in Turkey or Jordan. Turkey may soon play host to 3-5 million refugees and will need coordination and volunteers at a massive level. What we have done in Lesvos, Athens, Calais Jungle, Dunkirk, Idomini, and Samos are mere child-play in comparison. Jordan needs massive help as well. The camps there were established in 1947 for the Palestinian refugees. The refugees are now on their 4th and 5th generations of living in the camps. The refugees there know only the camps, as did their parents, and their parents-parents. Footage of the camps show structures and tents for as far as the eye can see. There is no end or beginning.
 
              There is no way that any of the refugees can return home, for there is nothing left. Everything has been destroyed by air-strikes and drone attacks. What was home will never be home, for some, they have no idea what home actually is.

2.6.2016

2.6.2016
              I’m sitting at a table for supper typing this. Around me sits 12 volunteers – none of whom are from the same country. A few of us speak English as our first language, but not everyone. We have some Arabic, English, French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, German, and Portuguese conversations in which everyone participates. Some have to use a translator, some of us are multi-lingual so we can converse or participate in the conversations by following context. Those coming from America have just one language, English, while almost everyone else is fluent in at least three languages. I’m thankful for my studies in Latin, Arabic, French, and Spanish because I can follow along. I am in no way a master of any language, my American English slang is so mumbled most of the time that even the Irish have no idea what I am saying half of the time. Still sitting here among a multi-national table of volunteers is a blessing, for we are a group that represents our nations, we represent peace and solidarity.
 
              Finally, I have a friend from the States coming; I requested her to bring a bottle of Siracha Sauce. I dearly miss eating Mexican food, or anything with spice. Every morning I eat some eggs, and I immediately think of salsa. I think the only other thing I have her bringing is some gummi bears from the local butcher in Oshkosh, Ski’s Meat Market. Haribo Gummi Bears are alright, but they do not quite cut the cake.
 
              I have a busy next two days coming up. Because of the international politics it was almost impossible to finalize any plans. I thought I was going to go to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan to find out where volunteers are needed, but my friend Todar is already there. I worked with him in Lesvos with ‘A Drop in the Ocean.’ He has since broken off and helped found the NGO ‘Northern Lights’ and also helped found The Hope Center. The Hope Center is a hotel on the beaches of Lesvos – this allows refugees to come directly from boats and have personal rooms to change, make chai-tea, and to rest and recover before they move to the camps.
 
              The next two days I must coordinate with Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). They have planned on working in the warehouse with me for three days. On Tuesday I must go to the island of Kos to help the volunteers there set to look for refugee boats on the Aegean Sea. One more island, one more adventure. I have one day to hand over responsibilities to the new long-term volunteer, Bogdin from Hungary. Tomorrow will be a very busy day.
 

2.3.2016

2.3.2016
Samos Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
 
              The past few days have been a massive blend of work and more work. When I am not actually doing “volunteer” work, I am on my computer doing work on a larger scale. Since we (the volunteers helping with the refugee crisis on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and mainland Greece) are unsure if the current flow of refugees will stop due to military action, we must look for new opportunities to help the refugees. In two weeks, we have no idea if those volunteers that continue to help the refugees in Greece will be criminalized for “human-trafficking” or whatever the EU and FRONTEX wants to charge us with. The flow of refugees has slown down, and if the military takes over the waters, then there will amost be no need for volunteers on the island.
 
              Sometime next week I will be taking the ferry across to Turkey. There are at least 2.2 million known refugees in Turkey, possibly upwards to 3 million refugees there. I have spent some time searching the web and social media for indicators of where help is needed, but it seems that everything just points to Istanbul. There are roughly 50 more camps south of Istanbul, most closer to the Syrian or Iraqi border. I intend to go for 2-3 days to find where help is needed most, since Istanbul seems to be the “Lesvos” of Turkey. I have talked with some others, and they suggest that Jordan and Lebanon need the most help. There are 3000+ volunteers working on the refugee crisis in Greece, and all eyes are looking east. Someone needs to find out where these 3000 should go, as well as the several thousand who have already volunteered and yearn to return, and for those who have not volunteered but have the innate desire to help.
 
              Turkey is also where one of the orphanages that Mari and I have been interested in looking at so we have an idea of what we are getting into when we establish one in Greece. Already my NGO from Lesvos has put me in contact with people there as well as asked if I was interested in volunteering there while I remain out of the Schengen for 90 days due to my visa. Things are slowly starting to fall into place, another 15 days and Mari, Kristina, and Marian will be back on the islands. Soon we will be able to begin figuring out our funding for the orphanage, logistics, administration, and bureaucratic loopholes that we must jump through.
 
              I have had the honor of working with Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders these past three days. The first two days they sent up 12 of their employees to aid us (the municipality volunteers) at the warehouse. This has alieved a large amount of stress off of my shoulders. We were able to get ahead on shoes that needed to be ready to be sent to the port-camp for wet refugees, as well as sort through over half of the unsorted children and baby clothes.
 
Samos Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
 
              I was very fortunate that there were several women that knew the difference between baby clothes and children’s clothes as well as the difference between 0-2, 3-5, and 6-8 year olds. If it had been myself, there would have been boxes that said ‘baby clothes’ and ‘children’s clothes.’ They made the job for the volunteers changing wet children at the port much simpler and efficient while also relieving myself from getting aggravated volunteers.
 
Samos Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
 
              Today the lead coordinator of the municipality volunteers and myself met with and coordinated with some of the MSF (Medecines Sans Frontiers) logistics coordinators. Since we give them some of our boxes of clothing to distribute in the camps, they swapped with us bag-packs, ponchos, and UNHCR gloves, hats, and scarves. The repertoire has slowly begun among the established NGO’s here, which will alleviate problems with different groups distributing simultaneously, sharing of resources, and tensions. This also allowed me to speak with the logistics managers about future work possibly with MSF. They told me that I should apply for a position, that they could put references down for me, and that though French is very important, it is not totally necessary. They did tell me that my 2 years of French will help, and any other studies in the language would be an aid as well. I must retain this information for future use, for I still have an orphanage that needs to happen.
 
              The rest of the day I assisted the lead-coordinator, Vale, in small tasks. For the past 4-5 days she has been escorting journalists around and has not had the ability to focus on her tasks. Though it was not possible for her to take the day off, she was able to focus on tasks at the hostel versus running around Vathi/Samos town on errands. Thankfully there are long-term volunteers to shoulder some of her work: Saleh who runs the port, myself who runs the warehouse, Melinda who handles the children and women changing, and Elyssa who bridges all of the gaps.

1.28.2016

1.28.2016
              The volunteers and I were right on our discussions about the Schengen deal. We were surmising that Schengen would just be the beginning. True enough the next day the EU had a meeting and gave Greece the ultimatum of 3 months to stop the flow of refugees or be kicked out of the EU as well. Of course this has more to do with the economic finances more than anything, but the EU can use the refugees as a scapegoat just like Schengen. The EU had been trying to give Greece the boot for the past two years, so now they have the leverage. This has more than Greece’s finances though. Some of the EU nations can use Greece to prove that the EU and the euro are part of a broken system, so it goes much deeper. Of course this was just a blip on the international news because the governments and media do not want the world to see this happen. If the world was to see this, more especially the US and other nations that could possibly interfere, their plan may stop or slow down.
 
              The EU told Greece that they have one of the largest navys so they should have no problem in stopping the refugees. It seems much easier said than done. Either Greece must sink the refugees, turn them around so that the Turkish Coast Guard can sink them, or immediately detain them and deport them. The EU also proposed a camp for the refugees for 500,000 refugees either in Turkey or Greece, which has never been done in world history. This would be the biggest squalor of human-rights violations, death, sickness, and hopeless despair. The EU also offered Greece 50,000 euro off of their debt, which is tempting when balancing their debt or lose all trade and the euro. If Greece continues to accept refugees the EU wants to build a fence across the northern frontier and have an army standing there to stop both refugees and Greeks from entering into the EU.
 
              We lost another boat, some survived, at least 24 are confirmed dead. All efforts to spot boats has come to a screeching halt due to the international fiasco. The world and local governments seem to be working against the volunteers and refugees right now. It’s all about the money. It’s heart-wrenching to know that there is so much that we can do to prevent these human losses, yet our hands are tied. If we try to go out and spot boats we could end everything for volunteers on Samos. We have to accept that we do everything and more in our power, and must take joy in the lives we have changed.
 
              The warehouse is a beauty compared to what it used to be. The negative side is I see what we are low on, have nothing of, or looking at the long-term know what we will not have. Eventually donations from Europe both in shipments and money will dry up or else the donors will grow weary of the same fundraisers. If a large disaster happens elsewhere then a large portion of our donations will stop because donors will shift their attention. “Managing” the warehouse has me worried about the long-term sustainability more than most volunteers, but then I also volunteered at Lesvos. Lesvos has hit the wall a while ago, we still have yet to start telling the refugees we have nothing to give, but the day will soon arrive. Luckily for now we have donors come and purchase the immediate needs here. One of our shipping containers was redirected to a camp in Syria, and the other one is in limbo, partially due to the ferry-strike, partially due to the three plus shipping time-line. The last time we received a shipping container was the 5th of January. Right now men’s shoes, all ages and genders socks and underwear, hats and gloves are only available because of donors who come here. If we do not get a container in the next week we will have to start turning refugees away for certain items.
              I’ve been working slightly longer days at the warehouse so that I can spend the next day searching in the un-sorted boxes for the impending needs as well as preparing for the next day for the volunteers sent to the warehouse. The past few days there has only been one or two others besides myself here. Everything that we do all day gets immediately sent to the camp, there is no getting ahead unless I work longer. Everything is ready and in place if I had a group of volunteers sent, but right now we are down to less than 10. We have lost about two-thirds of the volunteers since I first arrived, I am thankful for the time and work that the volunteers did put it before they left. There is no way that we could handle the influx of refugees had it not been for their hard work and dedication.
 
            I must say influx because due to the international politics every refugee is clamoring to get into Europe before it is too late. There is also the fact that the refugees do talk to each other and know the routes to travel. Already this year the amount of refugees coming across the Greek isles have double from this time last January. We had over 1.1 million refugees come into Greece in 2015, and the estimate was 2 million for 2016. This was before the propositions by the EU and Schengen. Every refugee knows that there is a deadline, and they pass it on to their families and friends back home. We are going to see a mass migration in the next couple of weeks/months. We are short on funds, clothing/shoes, and volunteers. Yet we will continue on as we always do; I have seen miracles happen already.
 

1.25.2016

1.25.2016
              Today was the first day that the warehouse resembled a warehouse. The past couple of weeks’ labor finally fell into fruition, so it was pleasing to finally see the results. It also raises concerns because the space gained was largely due to distribution to the refugees. Though we do have more shipping containers coming in in a week or two, the donations are starting to slow down. To some it may seem like there is a large supply, but most of it is not what is direly needed. We are down to enough shoes to last two-three days before we have to start handing out summer shoes. We have been separating shoes as to the upcoming journey the refugees will have in Europe. Many will walk the distance of Europe twice, and it is winter. Refugees are freezing to death in Europe or getting amputations due to frostbite, so we try to equip them properly. Soon we will be handing out items that we know will neither last a week to the environments or will fall apart after a few days of walking. It already hurts when we have to turn them away, but knowing what they have to go through and handing them items unfit for the environment and journey is heart-wrenching.
 
              The situation of the refugee crisis changes daily, but this week the situation is becoming even more drastic. Turkey has slowed/attempted to stop the flow of refugees. I can only imagine what that means. Turkey is already infamous for their human-rights violations, for trying to kill refugees trying to cross. What exactly are they doing to slow down the flow of refugees?
 
              Perhaps the most important news that has occurred since I have begun volunteering happened this evening. Greece was given an ultimatum: They have six weeks to stop the flow of refugees or be kicked out of the Schengen. The Schengen allows for trade and the borderless Europe. Europe has been trying for the past couple years to push Greece out of the Schengen because of their economic crisis, so now they can use the refugee crisis as their main lobbying point and shift focus off of the economic crisis. Europe has told Greece that they have one of the largest navy’s so they should be able to blockade the Turkish/Greece coast. Europe has shifted the blame to Greece since Turkey has not followed through with their promise of stopping the flow. In shifting the blame to Greece they can “forget” that they gave 3 billion euros to Turkey to stop the flow.
 
              Greece has to decide to either stay in the European economic trade or they must choose to allow the refugees to die. If Greece decides to remain in the Schengen then the Greek navy must either turn refugee boats back, deport all the refugees trying to cross, or sink the refugees. If they turn the refugee boats around, then they are at the mercy of the Turkish Coast Guard and police whom we have seen sinking boats filled with refugees. If the refugees are deported immediately then their journey of death was for nothing, and they must return to their home nations that are completely destroyed by war and must either join ISIS or die.
 
              If Greece decides to continue helping the refugee’s, then the situation here will become dire. Turkey will have a fence across its southern border, but the refugees will still cross, just at a slower rate. Europe will construct a fence across the northern Greek border, and have a standing military to prevent both Greeks and refugees from leaving. Greece will become a prison for both refugees and Greeks alike. This also means that Greece loses its’ borderless Europe agreement which impacts international trade massively. Since they have an economic crisis here and the Greeks themselves struggle to put food on the table there will be riots among the refugees and Greeks just for basic needs like food. No one could blame either for trying to feed their starving families. The Greeks I do talk to and eat supper with on a daily basis are worried that if they are kicked out of the Schengen then that means civil war.
 
              The EU has also been meeting and trying for the past year to kick Greece out of the EU as well. If Greece is kicked out of Schengen then this will make it easier for the EU to slide their policy along with the Schengen. This will only cause more economic issues as well as incite more riots and help feed the notions of civil war. Greece has to decide between the survivability of their nation or to turn their backs on humanity. It is a horrible decision to have to make. I have before said, Europe and the US have dark days ahead of them, it is beginning to happen. In one year the Greek isles are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for saving lives while simultaneously losing their rights associating them to the EU and Schengen for saving lives.

1.23.2016

1.23.16

            I have been diligently working in the warehouse every day and then down at the port camp every night for the evening shift. Some days I go because I am scheduled, the other days because I cannot sit around when I know all my friends at Lesvos are working twice as much. I feel guilty being here, but I know that I must stay here and continue my job while playing the PR game until my NGO establishes here. I still have yet to find a niche among the volunteers here, the only one I can find any identity with had also been on Lesvos thus we share some similar experiences. Most of the volunteers here are told that working 7-8 hour days will burn them out, yet all feel useless here. What we do is important but the chaos and organization are different. We are told to decompress from our experiences after our day, so many go out in town. I have no idea what I am to decompress from, for I work double hours at home, at 2-3x higher of a work-pace than here.

            Events on the island of Samos and all the Greek islands may change soon, some changes may be for the better but some for the worst. Two nights ago a boat ended up missing for over 18 hours. What worked in Lesvos does not work here. On Lesvos if a refugee that has already crossed calls a volunteer saying that a boat is crossing and needs help with the coordinates, action happens immediately. The volunteer notifies their coordinator, or in the majority of cases, calls from their home in Europe to their NGO, who in turn notifies the rescue boats. They immediately splash out and look for the boat. On Samos it is brushed off. For over 6 hours the Port Police refused to pick up their phone or would hang up. They do not allow rescue boats to go out without their permission. For hours I had people asking me why we were not doing anything, why Samos was not responding. It was frustrating to know that there are systems that should be in place to prevent these situations. The people were found, but it took 18 hours and international headlines for it to happen.

            This allowed for the immigration focus to turn to Samos, which also includes notice from FRONTEX. FRONTEX is the right-wing in Europe who controls the borders and immigration. If they come into the islands and take over the refugees will not be allowed to cross, will not have a chance to make it to Europe. Since all of the volunteers are actually participating in human-trafficking we all stand a risk of being arrested. This though is a very small risk, since they would have to arrest thousands as well as international NGO’s.

           The biggest risk is that the refugees will not be allowed to enter through Greece and will have to find different, harder ways to escape. They could also be stuck in Turkey, home of human-rights violations, or deported. FRONTEX and the International Rescue Committee are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. The positive is that since the crisis focus has moved to Samos, changes must and will happen. There should not be as many boats trying to cross without volunteers spotting them, thereby notifying rescue boats and divers. The refugees should not be wandering the islands for upwards for 12 hours in wet clothes until they are found and brought to the camps. Lesvos loses people to hypothermia on the beaches, and this is within half of an hour of making it to land. A woman should not have aborted her child due to exposure to the elements and forced to walk up a mountain. Most of this could have been avoided. It took 45 people dying, and a boat to be missing for 18 hours for change to start to happen, hopefully it is for the good.