I have been in Athens and last evening arrived in Lesvos. It is difficult to figure out what is going on with the refugees situation. We met with the MVI team leaders. They say the island camps have less than 3000 refugees that 1000 s have left for the mainland and there are many homeless in Athens. But? Where are they going to go when winter comes? There are camps on the inside or outside of Athens and one has swelled to over 5000. We think by winter it will be huge.
Meanwhile we visited some refugee friends. Dr. T and his family of wife and four kids have gotten asylum but are waiting for their papers. They got asylum months ago, when I was here. But they are still waiting and have no support. They are living in the tiniest one room, in a basement without an egress window, the only furniture a bed. It could be six month or a year before they get paper work. Dr. T is looking to work as a medical translator with one of the NGOs. He is a doctor from Afghanistan. I worked with him for many months. He is the kindest man. One thing I so love about him is that he prays six times a day. While working, when it was time, he would quietly say “It is time for me to pray,” and we would stop. I always felt it was a time to recharge to reflect — to stop for a bit, collect oneself and then continue, I loved this. Anyways, we are helping him now. This family has been in survival mode for three years now. Their children have not attended school. Can you imagine your life, your family’s life, just trying to survive, unable to adequately feed or educate your children? I love this family. I want their lives to start again.
I also visited my friend A who is also stuck waiting. He had a three year residency in Greece. The law changed and his papers became invalid which meant they were rejected. He had a job, paid taxes, had NO TROUBLE — just a change in law. And now, he awaits a decision that could mean deportation. We talked about the feeling he has of groundlessness, he has no ground, no protection under any law, no country to belong to and at the mercy of changing decisions. For him, he survives in a small apartment with a person who has asylum and can work, so this helps to pay expenses. A works off the books, one weekend night a week in a restaurant for long hours. He must live on that income. He has hope though. There is a clause that if you have been living in Greece for seven years you will get automatic residency. So, he is patient and keeps his life quiet so as not to be noticed. Imagine though this young man who was a journalist student at the university has been a refugee for almost five years, leaving Africa, literally running for his life from political disagreements, landing in Turkey where he was abused working in a chemical factory with no protections from the fumes or skin contact, saved money to take a smuggler raft to Greece, land in the Moria camp, rises up to volunteer as a translator and lives groundless for five years waiting. Waiting . . . waiting. He told me if he can get residency he will work hard and if the politics in his country change he would go back to make an NGO to take care of the many orphans. He has learned so much about the NGOs and wants to serve. Something beautiful may come from all his suffering. Hands On Global will support his project in the future, if it can happen.
On Lesvos now. Early morning drinking coffee and preparing to go to the camp.