This week has brought more visitors to our little Greek island;
The port in Rhodes has seen much over the centuries, over the last few weeks we have seen a friends and family come and go here. This week an old friend came on holiday arriving by air rather than sea along with many other holiday makers. August is traditionally the busiest month.
This year has also seen other visitors arriving on our shores and this week another 2 boats of refugees have arrived. While the international press is still intrigued by the politics of Athens the islands are sinking, the infrastructure can’t cope.
Locals and expats have banded together to help where they can. There’s no formal organisation just lots of pleas on Facebook for different things. Those locally who have so little are giving all they can. Clothes, food, medicine. There are no refugee tents or facilities here. There are no refugees centres.
There needs to be organised international help. If they were all arriving in one place maybe it would be more noticeable. Instead every island across the Dodecanese has had boats land this summer. Those closest to Turkey have received more than most and been in the news on occasion.
Last week a Greece cruise ship was sent around the islands to help by collecting the refugees for processing and sending them to Athens.
The journey the refugees take to reach our shores is harrowing, they risk their lives to get to a place of safety and freedom. This week Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis took this amazing image. The refugees celebrate taking selfies as they arrive.
Once the celebrations on the shore are over and they’ve informed family and friends that they made the crossing safely what next? What help is there? We are the largest island in the Dodecanese here there is still no permanent refugee task force or committee. There isn’t the money or the expertise, they simply don’t know what to do or how to cope.
2 days ago when they landed the most recent group here were put in a old abandoned building near the port. With no windows or doors, just a concrete floor. There isn’t anything else. A plea went out and people turned up with rugs and mattresses. Yesterday the plea was for wound dressings, medical tape and bath towels. The red cross can’t cope. When will proper international help come?
2 days ago Macedonia declared a state of emergency as they struggled to cope with the refugees coming through the border from Greece. Border police were completely overwhelmed and resorted to using tear gas.
The refugees are of course finding that Greece is can’t cope. There are no jobs. The country is on it’s knees. Of course they are going to head to other European countries is search of jobs and homes. To rebuild their shattered lives.
But where is the help in Greece? When will the international organisations pull together and actually organise the refugee crisis here? There is only so much small groups with very little resources can do.
I first wrote about the current refugee crisis here at the beginning of May. All that I’ve seen since is more and more boats arriving. Help on the ground on islands just hasn’t come. Why?
In a moment I’m going to go and collect some bags of things people in the villages around here have donated and deliver it to the current refugees in Rhodes town. Everyone here is doing what they can, as they are on all the islands but we need help and we need it now.