Day 2. I started the day by meeting with Alison, a local business owner, to see if I could come up with some ideas to help promote tourism on Lesvos. Alison and her husband own a car rental agency, hotel and restaurant. We connected yesterday when I called to figure out how to open the trunk of our rental car. We started chatting and decided to meet and do some brainstorming.
I started the day by meeting with Alison, a local business owner, to see if I could come up with some ideas to help promote tourism on Lesvos. Alison and her husband own a car rental agency, hotel and restaurant. We connected yesterday when I called to figure out how to open the trunk of our rental car. We started chatting and decided to meet and do some brainstorming.
We had a great discussion and ended up pulling in Peggy from Starfish Foundation who has also been working on trying to do something to boast tourism. The locals depend on making the bulk of their income in 5 months of the year. Bookings are way down this year and charter flights are getting cancelled. It is very worrying for them. I have a background in travel and tourism PR, so I hope I can do something to help these generous people who have given so much to the refugees, despite their own difficult circumstances.
After that meeting, Julia, Isabella and I drove to Mytilini. There were protests this morning and afternoon at Moria and at the port to call for recognition of the human rights of refugees. We didn't manage to get to either event, but it sounds like the refugees inside Moria appreciated the show of solidarity. Save the Children and Oxfam also announced today that they will no longer be working in Moria as a protest against the detention of the refugees.
We stopped by No Borders Kitchen just north of the port. The police visited the camp twice today and they expect to be shut down at any moment. There were quite a few people at the camp. We only saw men and they were mostly from Pakistan. We talked for a long time to a group of five men from Pakistan. They told us about their journey - three months by foot, bus, train. One fellow spoke excellent English. He showed us scars from gunshot wounds and torture. But - remember - the Pakistanis are not considered to be refugees, so they are not allowed to register and will eventually be arrested and deported.
We returned to the ferry port where we met Rhoda Taylor and Pat Partridge from the Cowichan Valley in British Columbia. They are two amazing dynamic grandmas! They have a healthcare background, so they are working at Healthpoint at Moria outside the camp. As if that isn't enough, they have also been doing Marhacar shifts. They just don't stop. Proud to know them!! We introduced Rhoda and Pat to a journalist from The Globe and Mail, David Layton, and they were both interviewed for a story he is writing about Canadians volunteering on Lesvos.
We went to the port to be there to see off a group of refugees from Kara Tepe who are heading to Athens. We were surprised to see one of the Pakistani men we had met earlier. His presence was explained about thirty minutes later when we saw him try to get on the ferry with what must have been forged papers. The police and military officers examined the papers very closely. We held our breath, but then they grabbed him by the arm and loaded him into a paddy wagon. One by one, we saw all five of our new friends try to get past the ticket checkers and, one by one, we saw them dragged off. The last one was the youngest of the group - only 19. They looked at his papers for a very, very long time and we were so hoping that he would get through, but he didn't.
It is so sad. I don't know what will happen to these guys. Where will they be kept? For how long? What awaits them back in Pakistan? It was very, very sad to see our friends taken away but there were also some smiles. There were only a few children at the port, but Julia and Isabella handed out some of the 200 teddy bears we brought with us. The children smiled and so did their parents.
We then went back to Damas (SUCH good food!) and met up with the one and only Matthew Sheppard who has spent the last two months in Idomeni. Matthew and his friend Chloe (who has been at Idomeni for over 6 months) are exhausted and heartbroken but undaunted. They are taking a few days off and will be headed back up there. Matthew was also interviewed by David for the Globe and Mail article as he is from Montreal. Go Canada! Matthew is proudly wearing a beautiful "Safe Passage" necklace made by Erian Baxter. Erian is going to be making these to raise funds for the refugees.
We were at the car and ready to go home when I got a message that there were a couple of Morrocan refugees who needed some help and advice. These two lovely young men met Gabrielle, a volunteer from Vancouver, when she was working at Moria in December. They have been stuck at the camp since they arrived. When they first got there, Morrocans were still able to register as refugees. One of the young men had travelled from Morroco with two friends. The morning after they arrived, his friends went to register, but he was asleep, so they didn't wake him. When he went to register later that day, they told him to come back the next day. No Morrocans were able to register after that. His friends are now in Italy and Germany.
Now these two guys are stuck in limbo. If they are caught by the police, they will be detained. There is no way out. One of the guys said that sometimes he feels sad but most of the time he tries to enjoy life because this is the only life he has. Sitting across from him as he said this made me realize how exceedingly privileged we are and yet we so often find things to complain about. He was inspiring. We are going to a meeting tomorrow with two human rights lawyers. We will try to find out if there is anything we can do for these two.
After that we headed home. I have to admit I hate the long and winding road from Mytilini to Molyvos (90 minutes with about a third of it hairpin turns). We have to go down there again tomorrow, so maybe I will get better at it. We grabbed some ice cream at Posto and a giro for Isabella at Friends and headed home to blog and bed.