A change is as good as a rest, they say. With this in mind and satisfied that the Lighthouse beach is now in very capable hands and that I can let go of this project now, myself and fellow volunteer Juval set off to Mytilini for a couple of days to assess the needs down there. Juval is a man on a mission to warm hands, hearts and bellies with hot tea. Everyday at the Lighthouse, every person stepping off a boat is greeted with a steaming cup of a hot sweet black lemon tea concoction. Delicious and nutritious!
We thought that the people waiting to register in Moria might need a dose of that too.
Moria is a registration centre. It featured in one of my first posts. It was horrifying. It is better now, but it is still not acceptable. All non-Syrian people must register here with the Greek authorities for their papers that allow them to continue to travel throughout Greece. As you will see, the nationalities are many: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Eritrea, Somalia, Pakistan, Morocco… the list goes on. On arrival at the centre, they are issued with a ticket with a number. This sounds easy, but the only instructions are written in English, and there is NO ONE in charge of orientating the new arrivals. Each person is dumped off a bus and left to figure things out for themselves. It took me a while and I still don’t fully understand. (I had the English and the authority to go and speak to one of the Greek riot police who run the place and ask. I can guarantee you the refugees will not receive the same treatment and courtesy that I, a European volunteer, was lucky enough to get). Anyway, once they have found the place and the person who issues the numbers, they are left holding a piece of paper with a number on it. Where to go next? How to find out? More confusion. Again, no instructions except in English, to join a line to register ONLY when the number on your ticket appears on a board at the beginning of the line. But to complicate matters further, your ticket also has a date on it. And when we were there on the 17th November, the date being processed in the line was for the 10th November… this was the part I didn’t get. Had these people really been waiting a week to be processed? I’m still not sure. Anyway, one thing is for certain and that is that some people do wait days for registration. Days, camping in the olive groves in tents donated and set up by volunteers, eating food provided by volunteers, drinking tea brought to them by us. Without the volunteers, there is nothing.
Things are improving inside the fence- the UNHCR have a number of metal tents (known, I believe, as IKEA tents, perhaps they were designed by IKEA?) where families can sleep. The accommodation area inside which was not previously in use is now in use. The most vulnerable families are selected to sleep in this shelter as there is not enough for everyone. A volunteer who helps in the selection process explained to me that at the busiest time, they had to take the decision to take only the women and children from families and force the men to stay outside, in order to be able to have more women and children and babies inside. I was shocked that they were splitting up families, as there is a massive sense of being cut off from the inside of the camp (see photos of metres high razor wire fences patrolled by riot police and you’ll understand why) and it must have been very traumatic for those families separated, unable to communicate.
We helped Pikpa Village of All Together deliver thousands of meals on our first night, out the back of the van that you good people are paying for. The next morning we helped two English men distribute thousands and thousands of bowls of rice pudding for breakfast (video coming!). That evening, we served tea and cinnamon buns to a few hundred cold people. Yesterday I went on a mission to distribute toothpaste and toothbrushes to all the people camping out, waiting to register.
Happily, everywhere, there is a strong presence of volunteers, and more and more great initiatives being put in place! I think we will soon be redundant and that is a good thing! We have one new mission: in the next few days a tea tent will be set up in Moria by Juval, with me and the van. The Lemon Tea Foundation.