I got a little frustrated and annoyed today. We were bringing a boat in and as it’s motor had broken, they had to paddle for over an hour and a half before they made land. The people on the shore were trying to get them to aim for a piece of safe beach away from the rocks but it meant fighting against the tide and simply added to their exhaustion. The idea was a good one but equally the people who thought it was just making it harder and more distressing for them were also correct as it did just that. There seemed to be no uniformed idea of the best approach to take and it made me realise how many people are volunteers and not trained professionals. Don’t get me wrong, some of the people out here know exactly what they are doing and are doing a great job, and there are a few professional groups but generally an international humanitarian disaster is being run by volunteers with no training and who are gaining the experience on the job. This is people lives and they’re been saved by people learning on the job. Let that sink in. This is in no way taking anything away from people doing an incredible job, but it should never be like this. Where are the European governments best men? Why is the UNHCR viewed of as a complete joke over here? Even send in the army, I’m sure they would prefer that to sitting around in their barracks. This is peoples lives and I’m stuck wondering when the world with all its money and power is going to come along and save them. It is a disgrace, it disgusts me and I’m angry about it. Makes me wonder whether they really want to efficiently deal with this crisis and how much they actually want and need it. It can’t be denied that it’s not only a money maker but creates a really emotive and manipulatable political argument too.
But enough of that, I want to mention a few other things I haven’t been able to over the last few days. It has been a week and I’ve moved on from my pointless sentimentality that I first experienced to something else and I fully expect to move on and then probably back to sentimentality all over again. I’m not going to make a sweeping general statement and say that these are good people, but there are good honest innocent men, women and children risking everything for an idea they have been sold about an illusionary Europe. I met a Syrian guy, fresh off the boat in the north of the island, a couple of nights ago and he stayed with me for a bit while I played crowd control. I think we both needed each others company a little in that moment, then the next night when handing out water and clothes at the port I saw him again and I was so happy he was there. He introduced me to all his friends and we chatted for a while about their lives back home in Syria. He was a mechanic, one of his friends a civil engineer, another a veterinarian, another an accountant, and they were all in their mid to late twenties, some still studying. This is Syria’s next educated generation which should be taking the country forward but instead they are fleeing for their lives so they can clean toilets in northern Europe. Despite having the money to travel to that far, five to six thousand euro by the way, and for many is money sent to them by people already settled in Europe, they ‘have no future’ at home, or in many cases no home at all. On a macro scale, the future impact for Syria of losing some of it’s best minds must never be underestimated and will simply weaken a country already on it’s knees as foreign powers point rifles at it’s head from all angles. It just seems like these people are pawns in a game of chess, although it’s not just being played in one country but the entire Middle East.
There are so many little bits of information or ideas floating around here amongst those helping out. The refugees pay between one to two thousand euro each for the crossing. A boat arrived in the north just a few hours before we arrived which had nearly three hundred people on it. Normal dingies take about forty and some of the larger boats seventy. The Turkish jails are apparently full of smugglers as it is only six months for a first time offense, two years for a second, time well spent if you can set yourself up for life on the profits of just one trip. These smugglers are apparently Turkish mafia, although the levels of corruption in Turkey makes Erdogan and his government just as responsible. There are countless reports out here of refugees being forced onto the boats at gunpoint if they refuse to travel because of the weather or the condition of the boat. As the smugglers don’t get paid until the boat arrives this is highly believable and as the weather gets worse going into winter is only going to get worse.
I seemingly couldn’t help myself, I tried to be positive and tell wonderful happy stories but I slipped back into the reality of the situation. I will finish with a positive though. About ten days ago, a woman’s water broke and she went into labour either when getting into the boat or while crossing the six kilometre stretch from Turkey. A volunteer successfully helped her give birth on the beach. I find that incredible, so beautiful in many ways, and something I suspect will never be forgotten by all those involved. What a way to come into this world