And so the sun sets on another day. The day started with 4 boats coming in almost one on top of the other and bear in mind that this is just one bit of the Island. The same thing is happening along a long stretch of the coast so visible to Turkey. One boat of very loud and wired men who hadn’t eaten for 3 days. More families all soaking wet and terrified. We try and get the children dried and kitted out before they are whisked off to an interim camp half an hour away. That place is hell.
We line wet shoes up to hopefully dry in the sun ready to be put on the feet of the next lot of arrivals either the same day or the next. The shoes break my heart. Rows of little shoes each with their own story and all just simply trying to stay alive. The resilience and courage of these families is utterly jaw dropping. Within ten minutes of standing on the shore shaking and crying with shock and terror at their horrific journey they are laughing and playing. Marcie’s skipping rope is a big hit. It gets people moving and warm again and, more importantly, laughing. As the children start laughing it ripples around everyone else in the way that children’s laughter does.
One 14 year old boy from Syria told me that he loves his country and he didn’t want to leave but too many people are dying. He gave the names of his classmates who are dead and talked about the ones who are still alive but who he will never see again. He looks forward to the day that he can go home and help rebuild his country but it won’t be anytime soon. He asked ‘am I safe now? ‘ I said that the rest of the journey is not going to be easy. ‘But there is no war now? No bombs?’ No there’s no bombs but who knows what the future holds for this bright, intelligent young man. But still we laughed and the whole family of 11 people laughed and shared their stories.
An older man from Iraq wanted to show me family photos on his phone, or so i thought, language was a bit sticky. They were photos of his son who’d had his throat slit by the military. Photos of young men lying dead. Graphic photos that showed every last inch of detail into their final moments. I couldn’t get to understand the circumstances or how the father came to be there but I didn’t really need to. The photos and these two broken parents painted all of the words that I needed to know.
Late tonight 2 boats came in. It’s pitch black. The second boat with 40 people aboard, 11 of them children, was driven into the rocks by the smuggler so that he could make a quick getaway leaving them to potentially all die. Thanks to the amazing lifeguard crew and volunteers scrambling up the rocks in the dark there were no fatalities. All of the children and families dealt with something so completely terrifying and almost death with such calm and grace. Again within minutes laughing and thanking everyone for their help. The Greek people are amazing. They have about 6000 people a day arriving on this island and many have just given up their lives to help people who arrive. The news that about 3 million more people are on their way is received with a shake of the head. For sure there are some people up in arms but it really is a minority and any exploiting of the refugees is frowned upon.
I could go on and on and already have. This is a shortened version of what is going on but the world needs to know what is happening.