Lesvos: Playing hide and seek with NGO’s

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Things are changing rapidly at Lesvos. Right now, after only three weeks, some details in this article (including the information in the diagrams at the end) are outdated. And that’s very good.
The main line and the things to learn however are still important, also forasmuch the future.

Sun has set at Lesvos, while I talk to her on Facebook. She is a Dutch retiree and all afternoon she’s been stretched on her bed on beautiful Petra beach: under a palmtree, with sea views. In the evening they built a fire and roasted chicken. I wasn’t there of course, but her photos suggest this story. And there also was a lot of good news today: help was finally coming! Dutch Stichting Vluchteling announced: “We started giving emergency help in Kara Tepe” and the International Rescue Committee was claiming their arrival as well. But the tone of my conversation with her on Facebook is rather bitter.

In this post you’ll find also: communicationtips for NGO’s, and an overview over who’s doing what and where on Lesvos.

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Kara Tepe: where humans are dehumanized

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A few hours ago we arrived in Mytilini. For the past two days, we’ve been walking the second part of the walk that most refugees have to walk: through the mountains and under the scorching sun, from Kalloni to Mytilini. And of course we as well slept under the stars, “in the mountains, in the jungle”. It wasn’t a good nights rest, if only because you know it is illegal. Yet, after two exhaustive days, it does only feel logical to walk on to the main refugee camp of Mytilini: Kara Tepe, near the Lidl. We thought we would be accustomed to some misery by now, but what we see in the camp defies any description!

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Refugees on Lesvos: a ‘walk from hell’

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Already for two days we get up at 5 AM to be by dawn at the North beach of Lesvos, together with two loyal volunteers (the artist Eric and his wife Philippa). There we will help the first boat arriving from Turkey (not really the first, since the boats are coming in 24/7). The dinghies are cheap and without exception overloaded. Especially with the strong North East winds during the previous days, the crossing is dangerous and heavy. De boat arriving yesterday was filled with water, had thrown all bags overboard and there had even been a man abandonning ship in order to save his newly wed wife and unborn child (and all the others aboard). Today we feared the boat would hit the rocks and I was convinced I had to wade into the water. But there it doesn’t stop: after every arrival the refugees face a hike of about 70 kilometres at 30+° Celcius. But if that’s the worst…
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Lesvos: a paradise in crisis

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Can you imagine? Everyday at least six dinghies packed with refugees arrive at the shores of this paradise; sometimes twenty, but most of the time eighty people per boat; that equals at least sixhundred people a day.

No? Good for you. Since this paradise at the same time suffers from the heaviest economical crisis that’s been seen in Europe during the last decades. These two don’t go well together, and that’s why tourism is very much needed (en very well possible), as will be illustrated by these two stories:

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