It is bitter to swallow, but with hope [and some almost objective data]
Three NGOs watch the Mitilene beaches, in Lesbos, to provide immediate care to refugees who arrive on boats.
Yesterday I met some guys from Seville who spent their holidays looking at the sea. Each night, in groups of three people and with others from other countries, go to the Mitilene beaches and watch the horizon looking for boats coming from Turkey.
[Right now there are three NGOs working to guard the North coast of Lesbos: ERCI, Lighthouse refugee Relief Lesvos and Proactiva; together with the Turkish coast guard and the FRONTEX vessels. According to the agreement between the EU and Turkey, the obligation of Turkey is to prevent boats from crossing the Turkish territorial waters, but often they play dumb. NGOs make sure that nobody will drown. FRONTEX, depending on the case, leaves people drown or rescue them. Anyway, we have already saw it in the videos].
The beaches of Mitilene are rocky and unfriendly. The Turkish shape, on the other side of the sea, is wonderful. So close that one may think that it is possible to cross the sea by swimming. How would Lesbos look like from the other side? In a calm day without wind, like today, with a radiant sun and a soft breeze, which is the colour of the mirage of a possible future?
[Boats do not always cross the sea by making the shortest route, which lasts a little more than a couple of hours, in a day of calm sea. There are only two roads to get the leaving point of the Turkish coast where the shortest route is offered . The police can cut off them when they decide that nonone will pass. The reason why they do it only sometimes in unknown. Scarse resources and lot of work? Rich bryberies? Laziness? We have not seen it in the videos.]
The Sevillian guys, young and full of hope, look at the sea and when they see a boat in trouble they warn the coast guard. The idea is that nobody has to drown, nobody has to smash into the rocks.
[All NGOs have their own reception procedure, but all include providing medical care to whom need it, dry clothing to everyone and, with the permit of the police, hot tea or coffee and some biscuits. ACNUR has a first reception camp, where they can also charge their mobile. Mobile phone and documents are the most valuable possessions which they protect against their chest during the whole journey.]
Every night, a boat arrives over-loaded with young and beautiful people, they are full of hope. Both passengers and guards are tired, but when all people in the boat get the seashore with no accidents, there is a little while of euphoria, when all what it matters is the moment of triumph. Passengers have arrived alive. Guards helped them. And everybody is euphoric for one moment, being ignorant of the Moria centre, where the arrivals will be soon transferred to be registered. Being ignorant of the months they will spend waiting in poor living conditions in a tent. Being ignorant that here borders are closed.
[One may think that people getting Lesbos from Turkey come from close countries, mainly escaping from the Syrian War. But actually, many of them come from such unimaginable places like Bangladesh or Dominican Republic. We do not know how why do they make a such long and complicated journey. Some women managed to escape from criminal organizations of prostitution and dot no want to leave any trace behind. Other women walked from Congo.
This moment of the arrival, when everybody arrives alive and full of hope, is beautiful.
[The 46% of migrants arriving in Greece are children, the majority are accompanied by their mothers, some arrive with the whole family. Men are a minority. At the entrance of the first reception camp of Lighthouse Refugee Relief Lesvos, there is a sign advising them to not separate even in the police vans, because they may never meet again. They could be transferred to separate camps, but also there is a danger that minors are kidnapped. Half of the girls who attempt the journey, do not arrive at destination. We do not know how many girls are sold by their family to pay for the journey or how many are kidnapped by several criminal organizations. ]
Then, it is bitter to visit Moria with the Sevillian guys. You see the fences, people having little thing to do, tents amassed among barracks. Women cook with improvised fires at all corners, men play cards.
[The Moria detention camp is accommodated in an ancient prison, abandoned until recently. Since the 20th of March, any person arriving irregularly in Greece is not anymore a refugee, but a criminal. At the detention camp, people is registered and they can start to do the paperwork to apply for asylum, if they understand the appropriate language and know their rights. While their application is accepted or denied, whose process can last several months in the most optimistic case, they are located in concentration camps like the Moria one. The capacity of these camps is theoretically of 2000 people, but there are many more. Depending on source of information, there may be 2500, 4000,4500 people. Anyway, a big amount of people in a such limited space. ]
It is bitter to see the eyes of the three guys from Seville, young and beautiful, face to face with the inhumanity of the Moria prison. It is bitter to see children laughing, to see them playing cat and mouse. “Hug me, hold me, bring me with you. Bring me at your home, or wherever and make me be yours. Leave me be like you, take me out of here”. It is bitter to smile, offer a biscuit and tell them that it is not possible.
[Those migrants who speak English have more contacts with volunteers and, therefore, more access to privileges like a sweet or a soap tablet. All children have learnt to say basic things like: “my friend”, “me with you”, “you come to my tent”, “I love you”. The most outgoing, the most pleasant, the most clever children have more possibilities to get help for their family. In the camps this is a basic issue.]
This night I will look at the sea, somebody will watch the horizon, others will arrive on the boat. Nourishing the most bitter hope.
[I could provide more data, more arguments, more reasons. There are plenty of them. But, in the end, what really matters is whether we want to be humans or we want to keep fill concentration camps.]
Laia Altarriba - A lifejacket on the rocks of Lesvos Island, just in front of Turkish coasts.