I must thank everyone for your messages and comments on yesterday’s blog post. People have been saying how good it is to read about the situation over here, and to see the refugees described as refugees and not ‘Migrants’ – a word which seems to be upsetting a lot of TV viewers and newspaper readers. There has been some discussion about this choice of words, so here is some clarification.
Refugee: (Noun) A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. [Origins C17 French] (Oxford English Dictionary)
Migrant: (Noun) A person who moves from one place to another so as to find work. (Also O.E.D.) If you want the Dictionary.com extra you can also have: “Also called migrant worker. A person who moves from place to place to get work, especially a farm laborer who harvests crops seasonally.” No idea why crop harvesters get singled out but this misspelling of labourer will give you the clue as to what country that dictionary comes from.
So, you can see how Refugee is appropriate in most of the cases we are seeing coming through Symi. And you can also see how to be a ‘migrant’ implies that you’ve got a choice about it, you’re simply ‘doing a Tebbit’ and getting on your bike to find work elsewhere. That’s not what the 900 refugees we’ve seen here in the past seven days or so are doing. Yes, when they find safety and security they will want to work, but they didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Hey babe, let’s take the kids for a walk and get a better job shall we?’ and then set off on a 499.5 miles (distance from Damascus to Rhodes, or 803.8 kilometres) or the 2,160.7 miles (3,477.4 km) to Oslo, which is where some are headed. Those distance are as the crow flies (it’s always the same crow, he must get a bit tired). You then need to add in the twists and turn in the road, the sea, the border controls, the lack of support and so on, and there you go. Yes, there are probably some migrant workers moving from country to country around the world too and I dare say some illegal immigrants in the group trying to get into the UK. But everyone I’ve seen here is definitely not here through choice.
But let’s not dwell on the wider issues, that’s for those who had the choice to stand for election to deal with, or not. I just ‘report’ what I see from here at home. And yesterday Neil saw another new group of, well, too many to count, he said. They were being delivered to the Port Police side of the harbour where they wait until the two police officers on the other side are ready to do their paperwork. This can be a day or more waiting on the steps and by the road – someone is going to get hurt soon, it’s not the widest part of the harbour road to be waiting at. This new group were coming in on the bus from Panormitis, which means they may have been picked up at Marathunda. I saw a boat being brought in, empty, by the coast guard in the morning, presumably having already dropped people off.
On Sunday night we went down to the harbour to take back the bags of washing we had done. Wendy Symi Visitor was in the old post office in the dying light (no electricity to the building) with some volunteers making sandwiches. That huge consignment of water you might have seen in yesterday’s post had already been distributed. The porta-loos were there but can’t be plumbed in until the council approves the work, hopefully that’s been approved by now, I’m waiting to hear. And there were some women and children waiting outside and asking us for water. As the aid station wasn’t ready to re-open we went and bought a six bottles (€2.00) and gave them out to those who were there, reminding myself that I should learn the Arabic for ‘share.’
There was a guy there too who was asking for Panadol Cold and Flu tablets, which raises the question, should you give people medication? Some say no, unless you are a doctor of pharmacist. I say, two Panadol cold and flu tablets aren’t going to be enough to push someone over the edge into a coma, and in fact I doubt a whole box would be enough to end it all. So I went and bought him a packet, intending to give him six tablets to see him through, but when I got back he’d gone.
Sunday night saw a dance in the village square to which locals, Greeks and tourists, were invited to bring donations. As the dancers from Rhodes did their thing and then got some tourists and locals up to dance, 27 bags of food, clothes and donations were delivered to the square. And then later to our house, and then the next day by car to the aid station.
Finally (I could ramble on all day but I know you have things to do), people have been asking what they can send from the UK, and other countries and how. Well, if you do Facebook then look up https://www.facebook.com/solidaritysymi click the Sign Up button and you can make a donation. Or, if you don’t do Facebook, you can go straight to the donation page http://www.everyclick.com/solidaritysymi/info and donate there – it’s costing around €1,000 per day to give each refugee €2.50 worth or water, fruit and bread. And if you don’t want to do that but want to send something, send it to Solidarity Symi C/O Symi Visitor, Symi, 85600 – or C/O The Old Markets Hotel, Symi, 85600, or you can even send it to Symi Dream C/O 12 The Post Office, Symi 85600 (you can see where I go the title for the book from now can’t you?) I’m off, see you tomorrow.