Note: I’m spending the month of December volunteering on the Greek island of Lesvos.
As we flew into Lesvos I noticed one of the beaches was lined with orange. “What is that?” I wondered. Then I realized. Life jackets. The beach was lined with life jackets. Our contact, Katherine says seeing those life jackets is a positive thing. She says every life jacket represents someone who made it safely to the island.
I can see Turkey from here. It’s just a few miles away across a small but dangerous stretch of the Agean Sea. It takes about an hour and a half for the refugees to make this journey. Smugglers are running out of rubber boats, so they’re now sending the refugees over in old, decrepit fishing vessels. They tell the refugees to crash the boats on the shore when they arrive. They say that the refugees will be turned back to Turkey if they don’t. In reality this won’t happen.
The smugglers profit greatly off of the refugees, and don’t care about safety. Katherine says they’ve found life jackets that are actually filled with material that would sink when wet.
Many of the refugees could be killed if they went back to their homelands. Some discard their passports once they get here.
I will be working at one of the bus transition camps on the island. Refugees come here from the beach, and we will greet them and give them food, water, and dry clothing. We also hand out bus tickets to another location where Syrians and non-Syrians are separated and sent to two different camps. This is because some countries are taking only Syrian refugees.
The stop on Lesvos is just one part of the very long, very dangerous journey these real, actual, human, people undergo as they flee violence and persecution in search of a safer place to make their home.