From Lesvos, where Islamic Relief is assisting refugees, Musab Bora reports on the dramatic change on the Greek island and reflects on the deep-seated human need to connect.
The situation on Lesvos has been fluid since the beginning of the refugee crisis, and now there has been another dramatic shift. Refugees are still landing on the island, but instead of facing a gruelling walk to register, many can now board buses run by local volunteers and international NGOs.
In the main port, where refugees had been gathering, the government has started registering and taking people off the island. It was intense witnessing how quickly refugees are being moved. Large ferries carried thousands of people a day, working to clear the backlog of refugees trapped in limbo, waiting to continue their journey to safety.
A collaborative effort by local authorities, local people and businesses, as well as government and international organisations such as Islamic Relief, has changed the process on Lesvos from one of near-chaos to one which can be fairly straightforward. But when any part of that chain breaks down, we are in danger of slipping back and failing vulnerable people.
The need for connection
The Islamic Relief team was working with our partners today, to provide water to refugees. It was a small intervention but we could see how welcome it was to the families waiting in the searing heat.
There was an unexpected lull in the registration, so we started clearing away rubbish. We were joined by others. Someone held a bag while I filled it with discarded bottles and empty plates. I asked the young man which NGO or local group he was with. “No one,” he replied. “I am a refugee. I am from Syria”.
It’s only through being here that I have truly realised that the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is non-existent, and in these times of upheaval it is so vital to connect with others. I have seen that innate need for connection vividly on this island.
We had just finished unloading bottled water for distribution, when one of the local Hellenic Red Cross members asked if I had a mobile phone charger. A small boy, about eight or nine-years old, was visibly distressed because his mobile phone battery was flat and he could not get in touch with his parents. He looked exhausted, and it was barely midday. I happened to have a portable charger with me, and within twenty minutes his phone was charged, and his parents were able to speak to him. The relief on his face was acute.
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