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News from Lesbos

June: 2015: Once again “Foreigners on Lesvos are not only Tourists”. This year there are more “transit” refugees than before as a result of the wars and ISIS extensions in Middle East.

Strand Schlauchboot

We think it is time to give you some news about that subject and our actions.  As you know refugees are coming to Lesvos via Turkey. They buy a boat, which they leave afterwards at the coast. There is no way to stop them in the sea. The port police put them in two camps nearby Mytilini town and they try to register them. After about 3-4 days the refugees get a permission of a month-duration (or 6 months for Syrians). Now they are “legal” to travel to …Athens. Few of them – mainly families with children – stay on Lesvos, as they are scared to travel to the unknown.

 What do we do?  What can we do!

Our Greek/German ODYSSEAS  is a non-profit organization based in Berlin and it’s target is to offer educational programmes to young refugees living on Lesvos. Since September 2014 we offer Greek Lessons to children and young refugees staying more or less permanently at PIKPA. Giorgos is an excellent teacher who offers not only “letters” but also many activities trying to integrate them to our Greek-European society (like a visit to the supermarket).  PIKPA is an old camping place belonging to Lesvos Municipality, offered now to volunteers who host refugees and look after them. Odysseas can not support the ‘Transit” refugees, this is out of it’s official targets. This is why Daphne and Iannis with lots of help from our nice guests at Votsala and “Daphnis & Chloe” find other ways to help.

What have we done?

We organize meetings at Votsala where for example a lawyer of the “United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” explains the phenomenon and answers to our guest’s questions.

We collect money and next day we go together with some of our guests to the supermarket or/and to the Pharmacist, we buy food or/and medicines and we deliver it to the camps.

As a contrast to the reports of “Dailymail” like this one

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3099736/Holidaymakers-misery-boat-people-Syria-Afghanistan-seeking-asylum-set-migrant-camp-turn-popular-Greek-island-Kos-disgusting-hellhole.html

we have shown that tourists on Lesvos, as responsible European citizens who see this phenomenon as a pan-European problem, together with the locals try to help instead of seeing that as “disgusting”. The Athenian newspaper “Ethnos” wrote an article about our activity on its first page! Practice your Greek and look the photos at

http://www.ethnos.gr/article.asp?catid=22768&subid=2&pubid=64198524

As you understand, according to the law, a refugee remains an illegal in the country till the moment he is registered. But in order to be registered he/she needs to go to Mytilini town. Neither bus/taxi drivers are allowed to take them nor are we, locals or tourist. Why? Because if we give them a lift we are arrested as part of the smuggling system!!!! As a result the refugees are walking 40 to 60 km to the town. The image of exhausted walkers is not something we could accept.  The local authorities didn’t like to send a bus or a military truck to give them a lift.  Last Sunday volunteers coming from all over the island met at Molyvos. The police had first announced that if we take people from the road we would be arrested. When they realised that soon we were there with more than 50 cars, they decided to put our car numbers on a list and then … to join us! It was a very pleasant situation to see a police car in front and a police car at the back, stopping every now and then to collect refugees from the road!

Don’t imagine after all the above that Lesvos is full of camps and refugees. Lesvos is inhabited by 90.000 Greeks (not very happy because of the miserable crisis), 12.000 tourists (happy enjoying the sea and the sun)and about 4.000 refugees (also happy, enjoying the fact that they are still alive).  As a tourist you can see them more on TV than in real. But here at Votsala we believe that our guests wish to know and experience the real Lesvos therefore instead of hiding the problem we try to help out a little bit!

Our next plans: Our last meeting with other volunteers was last Thursday. At this moment it seems that an urgent problem is the sanitary conditions at the second (new) camp above Lidl. Our proposal to the municipality (which has no money, of course) is that we can buy for them all the materials they need (pipes, tiles, sinks, toilets etc.) hoping that they can offer a plumber and a builder from their own staff. Our policy is to offer always materials or services but never money to the authorities or to the refugees.

You can always help the integration of young refugees on Lesvos by supporting ODYSSEAS. You can also support us trying to make better the conditions at the refugees-camps by contacting us via email. 

We send you all our love!            Daphne & Iannis

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