Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

A Greek island blog from Symi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece. "James’s great talent lies in his careful observation of the absurd and the amusing, the dramas and the difficulties..." Anne Zouroudi.

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

Refugees on Symi

Refugees on Symi

This post is taken directly from the Solidarity Symi Facebook page.

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With the recent increase in refugee arrivals in Symi, we would like to appeal for volunteers to assist in coordinating delivery of water, breakfast items and basic needs. If you can commit to one hour morning and one hour evening, for 7 consecutive days, please get in touch. This structure will give some consistency to authorities in the absence of a formal organisation.

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The recent deportations from Turkey to Syria have caused many people to flee Turkey, and because of the horrendous overcrowding and conditions in established island camps, and the threat of deportations back to Turkey (Lesvos, Samos, Kos etc.), smaller Islands like Symi are seeing a large increase in arrivals.

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Donations can be made at Taxas supermarket ‘refugee account’ or via Next Stop Symi. https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/…/food-for-refugees-on-symi
Potential volunteers can message [via Facebook] or call + 30 6957302565. The police and port police are incredibly busy and have little time for well-meaning enquiries. Please understand their situation. Thank you.

And a note from me. Watching the bay on Saturday morning, we noticed several black dots in the sea. At first, we thought they were seagulls, but on closer inspection, they turned out to be innertubes from vehicles, presumably used as life preservers by a recent refugee boat. A little while later, the hard-working coastguards were out there collecting them from the water. It could so easily have been bodies.

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Symi as it happens – Refugee update

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

All donations are welcome

Here’s what we did on Saturday morning… We headed down to Yialos to do our regular three hours at the refugee station. That’s all we can do at the moment and many others are doing a lot more hours than we are, but we did take some washing down that we had done during the week, plus three bags of donations people had given us as they left to go home after a holiday. So, pretty nicely ladened down, we wandered down to the old post office.

There we discovered that 100 refugees had left on the Blue Star the previous evening and 50 had just landed and were being taken to the port police station to start their registration process.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Visitors who came to donate at the refugee station

Now here’s a thing that will calm all those silly people who are paranoid and think that every refugee is an IS terrorist – in fact those people seem to think that every Muslim is an IS terrorist, and those people really ought to get an education and calm down a little. Would it help if I told you that there were probably more terrorists entering your country quite legitimately today, right now, than there are washing up on Greek shores this month? You see, when a refugee lands in Greece, this is the start of the process: they are fingerprinted and have their photo taken, their details are recorded, their passports are recorded and 17 pieces of paper per refugee are filled out. That’s what each one has to go through – and what our port police and police-police have to do for each of the 50 who arrived on Saturday, and for every single person who arrives here without a visa. Now then, if I was a terrorist and wanted to slip into, say, the UK, without detection would I a) get on a plane with a visa (a real one would be safest) and a passport and pose as a tourist or business person, or b) join a group of strangers walking hundreds of miles across Turkey, risking detection by the Turkish authorities (who may even send me back to Syria as they are now starting to do), then pay thousands to get in a boat and risk sinking and drowning to then face the Greek authorities (fingerprints, photos, 17 forms to fill out) and then walk from Greece to Hungary and face detection and aggravation from the Hungarian authorities and then, hopefully, walk through Austria, Germany and France, and then hang around at Calais hoping to get through and then… I think we can all rest assured that most refugees are not going to blow up your shopping centre, love.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Keeps children busy and gives them some normality in a strange world

I digress. There will be another of my replies to the current round of racist arguments during the week. But back to Saturday… So, I went with Andy to welcome these new refugees with some fruit, water, milk, biscuits, wet wipes and a smile. I also got to ride in the Manos Fish Taverna pink golf cart which was a bit of a bonus. We gave out the supplies, Andy explained to the refugees what would happen next and how, when they were done there, they would be able to come around to the other side, see the police and then use the Solidarity Symi aid station. We also assured them that a doctor would be over to see them soon. One lady was suffering from very high sugar levels, not having been able to take her insulin. We also cleared up the steps where someone had been sick and then headed back to the OPO (Old post office, where Solidarity Symi has the aid station.)

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Panos, Cindy and Clive who donated clothes and bags to carry them in

Back there, Neil had been tidying up with another volunteer and, as things were quiet for a change, we were able to sort donations and do bits and pieces. A lovely lady from Penzance was there and attended to the curtain in the medical room so now the doctors have a decent curtain which opens and closes smoothly – the little things really count! Other people came in with donations and Neil showed them around and showed them the work being done and how their donations are used. Thank you to the ladies who came with bags and also put money in the donation tin. There are very generous people coming on holiday to Symi.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Two of the volunteer doctors, and their little one

Panos, from Thea Apartments (http://www.symi-thea.gr/index.php/en/ Neil did their photos a few years back) came with two of his guests to bring donations including lots of bags that will be very useful; thank you Cindy and Clive. Later, fabulous lady from Penzance went and bought some colouring books and crayons for children, Neil delivered some to the refugees at the port police and the kids loved them, and I expect the parents liked the fact they were then occupied for a while, and the volunteer doctor went and did his visit. (Diabetic lady’s life was saved thanks to a medical kit bought with donations made to Solidarity Symi.)

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Village boys playing in the square

So, it was a quiet day for us, but a useful one taking donations and sorting them and afterwards we treated ourselves to lunch at Meraklis and did eventually get home for an evening of films, ‘Camp’ and ‘Into The Woods’ seem a far cry from giving out nappies and biscuits, but that’s kind of how Saturdays are going around here. Now then, I am off to Rhodes tonight to collect mother who arrives on Tuesday, so I’m going to get a couple of blog posts ready in advance and post them up for while I am away. Check in tomorrow for more of my personal opinion, if you can bear it.

Greece as it happens – Saturday Symi Solidarity

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Volunteer doctor treating a refugee baby

Things were quieter at the old post office on Saturday when we did our weekly shift at the Symi Solidarity refugee aid station, but then, several hundred people had left on the Friday night boat, and there were still around 70 being processed by the hard working police next door.

When we were there, there was a photographer from The Mail On Sunday taking some shots, and his journalist colleague had also been around talking to Andy and Wendy, the charity organisers, and his/their piece was published on Sunday. It’s balanced and gives an insight from a third party into what work is being done here to help those fleeing the war. If you’ve not seen it then you can find it by clicking here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3223683/Amid-tears-tragedy-British-Good-Samaritan-IAN-BIRRELL.html You will also see a link at the bottom that you can click in order to donate money if you want to.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

This boy is collecting biscuits wrapped in a paper towel

As things were quieter is wasn’t a case of ‘crowd control’ like it was last Saturday, we had time to do some clearing up and sorting out of donations, and tidying the place generally. The plumber was there fitting in the porta-shower and WC, there were two German doctors on hand for an hour, and a British one coming in on Sunday, and we were of course still giving out water and biscuits, the very basics, but something.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Giving out the basics

I chatted briefly to three guys in their early 20s, two who were on their way to Germany and one, if he could manage it, Sweden, where he had family. One was sunburned after being out at sea in the sun in a boat with no shade for several hours, and luckily we had some aftersun he could have. We’ve been cutting up old water bottles to make small dishes to give out individual rations of things like sun cream, so that was handy and saved the cost of a plastic cup. (It all adds up!) The photographer took various shots, including one of a baby being treated by the doctor. So here’s Neil’s photo of a photographer taking a photo – this one wasn’t used in the MoS article (unless it was in the print version) so I thought you might like to see it anyway.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Mail on Sunday on Symi

A bit later we saw the smaller coastguard boat come in with five men on it, saved from the sea. They will, eventually, go around to the police station to be processed in batches (it sounds rather military and not-nice, but at times it’s the only way of managing), and will then wait until their next suitable boat. Some go to Rhodes to pick up a connection to Athens, others wait for the Blue Star, if it is not fully booked, it depends on how much money they have. After Athens it’s a case of trying to get across Greece and Macedonia and onwards, as I am sure you know.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

This guy is looking for clothes to replace those lost at sea; we still need men’s shorts and trousers

And, talking of Police, I’ve suggested that we somehow get a message to them, perhaps with a crate of beer, or coffee, to say thank you and to show that us ordinary folk appreciate the hard work they are putting in. Yes, I know it’s their job, but it’s not their job to stay up through the night filling out forms so people can leave on the next boat (as has been happening), while also staying on top of their usual duties. I’d go in myself with a case of something, but don’t want them to think I have some kind of bribe in mind! It needs to be coordinated somehow, and the same show of thanks should be made to the port police, coastguard etc. Just a thought.

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

The Olive Tree is raising money with their cookies

But, apart from all that… I did also get out for a long walk on Friday afternoon, the first for a while thanks to the weather being so hot. I did still end up looking like a drowned rat, thanks to the climb up the hillside, but it was bearable. There will be photos of rocks and things during the week so you can see where I went, and see how barren the island looks at this time of year. Mind you, I saw various kinds of birds, plenty of goats, some purple thistles, a huge monster of an Aloe plant (probably not one of them but it looked like Aloe leaves, I said Allo! To it but it wasn’t impressed) and various lizards so there’s still lots to see out there on them there hills. There’s more to come on this story in the week…

Images from Symi Greece by Neil Gosling and James Collins

Life jackets. A stark reminder

By the way: we do ask the parents for permission to use photos of them and their children before putting them up online.