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.