12 hours later & we’ve made it to Mytilini, Lesvos. No amount of Google research could have prepared for us today. It was undoubtedly the most overwhelming day of our lives. The refugee crisis became a lot more real when we met the refugees themselves.
After settling into our cozy stone abode overlooking the Aegean Sea, we met up with our volunteer org. at a local cafe, got registered with the Greek authorities (woah, so official) and met four refugees, all of whom have spent time in Moria camp – considered to be one of the worst camps in Greece. Nothing to do, nothing to drink, and nowhere to move. A blanket and a steel bed don’t compare to the head lice rampant around the camp. School? Not a chance. What’s even crazier? Refugees can see mattresses, clothes, food, & water bottles stacked and stocked, but volunteers aren’t allowed to distribute them. So what does Moria camp look like? Don’t know. No cameras are allowed in.
Confused, yet? So are they. And so are we.
But today, we’ll focus on Rosemary. First, we need to give some deets about the new EU-Turkey Agreement.
So what is it?
Definitely confusing. But basically all refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece post March 20th will be returned to Turkey – if they’re caught. Where’s the grey area? Everywhere. There isn’t a consensus on where Greek waters end and Turkey waters begin, giving NATO & Greek ships leeway.
So enter Rosemary, retired therapist from Switzerland. We found her sitting on the East shore, gazing at the narrow strait between Lesvos and Turkey (which by the way, we could totally see Turkey & NATO from the beach) (woah, International Studies in real life).
“What are you waiting for?”
“We are waiting for many, many, many days, weeks. No boats, but it could happen that there are boats coming. That’s why we are here, so if they come, we are ready.“-Rosemary
Before March 20th, a.k.a. before the EU-Turkey Agreement, 300-400 boats left Turkey each day – most landing in Lesvos, many lost at sea. Rosemary has spent the last five weeks volunteering a 12-hour shift per day on the off chance a boat of refugees makes it past NATO’s surveillance ships. She hasn’t seen one, but she still waits. 70,000 refugees are waiting in Turkey to make it to the E.U. Today we learned, that persistent compassion despite tangible results is the catalyst for change.