Letter from Lesvos
This letter was received a few days ago from Becks, Bro Ardudwy’s Administrative Assistant. She is currently out in Lesvos volunteering to help the refugees that are arriving there daily.
We had a day off today after working for the last 6. We’ve been working in the dry clothes distribution tent in Moria, which is the registration camp on the island. Moria is pretty horrific, the official government part is an old detention compound which looks like a prison, and the official plan is that everyone gets registered here on the day they arrive, stay a maximum of one night here in the flimsy plastic dormitories or in tents and then get the ferry to Athens. The reality is that they are mostly days behind with registration so refugees have to wait here for days at a time and there is never enough space within the compound. So people end up on the land next to the compound where until recently there were no facilities at all. (There are also very very limited facilities within the compound – completely erratic food distribution, no clothes distribution, no heating or lighting within the dormitories and very few if any doctors). On the land next to the compound ‘Better Days for Moria’ (the organisation we’ve ended up volunteering with) have gradually set up facilities to support people’s basic needs here – there is dry clothes distribution, a clinic, food and toilets – it’s all maintained and run by volunteers and there are rarely enough. On a rainy cold day it feels like hell here – it is horrendously muddy, there is no where warm for the refugees to go, there is litter everywhere and people are sat around wrapped in blankets waiting for sometimes up to 7 days to get registration papers so they can leave.
We’ve mostly worked with the women and children…when they arrive soaking wet and cold from the boats, we take them into the changing tent and try to get them dry clothes and shoes, nappies for the babies, blankets etc and on a good day have enough rucksacks in stock to give them a rucksack to fill with nappy supplies, clean underwear, toothbrushes etc. The number of children arriving is really shocking, they are mostly silent and obviously pretty traumatised. Yesterday I helped a mother with a tiny tiny baby who was swaddled in soaking wet blankets. Whilst the families wait for registration papers, if they’re lucky they’ll get a space in the family compound….a gated area surrounded by fences and barbed wire which looks like a prison and must be terrifying as a child but is meant to be safer for them, if it’s full they’ll be in a freezing tent. We usually have enough stock to give dry shoes to the children but we rarely have enough shoes to give out to the adults unless their shoes are wrecked. On our first day there were literally no adult shoes at all so we used some of the money raised in Bro Ardudwy to buy a big load of decent boots to give out to people. The refugees are completely embarrassed, apologetic and grateful. The situation is just so degrading for them.
The injustice of the whole situation is completely overwhelming. Just an example – when the refugees arrive at the camp they have to get a ticket which will then in a few days time allow them to register…however they have to go to a particular gate depending on what nationality they are…until recently it was nearly impossible to find out which gate to go to and they are arriving traumatised and tired….so they would queue for a ticket, wait a few days in the freezing cold to register, queue for up to 10 hours to register and then be told they had the wrong ticket, so they then have to queue again for a ticket, wait another 3 freezing cold days and then queue again for hours to register. And these are often families with children. Better days for Moria now try to have volunteers meeting the buses with translators to guide people to the right gates.
Hope that gives a bit of an idea of what it’s like out here. We are just trying to focus on helping the needs right in front of us each day…getting this mother and her children in dry clothes etc….contemplating the bigger picture becomes way too overwhelming. We really prayed that God would guide us to a little niche that we could commit to for our time here and he has been really faithful in that.