A Greek Odyssey — The Life Jacket Hierarchy

On Lesvos at the moment, you learn something new (and sickening) every ten minutes. What I learned today was that the Syrian refugees can afford the “good” orange life jackets from the people smugglers on the Turkish side. The blue or red ones? Well, they are for the Iraqi or Afghani people taking flight…and oftentimes those life jackets are fake - and stuffed with non buoyant material!

Today was ‘Baywatch’ on a whole different planet…our job was to spot for boats in the channel between Turkey and Lesvos. Each section of the Lesvos coastline is divided up by the volunteer groups to ensure there are eyes on all points along.

I started my shift with two Norwegian fellow Volunteers, Monika and Petter . We didn’t have to wait long….bobbing orange dots on the landscape grew bigger and we could make out an overloaded dinghy with multiple people on board. The Greek rescue boats had to escort the boat to shore as the paltry engine was overpowered by the waves, high winds and sheer weight of the human cargo. As it approached the shore, we could hear babies crying and lots of shouting.

I have to confess to welling up at seeing those little, scared faces. Those tears could not last long. ..we had babies to carry, emergency blankets to give out, dry socks and clothes to distribute.

There are many wonderful volunteers here. The Norwegians have adopted me at the minute. A stoic bunch and committed to doing wonderful work. More about them another day.

20 minutes later, two more boats landed in rapid succession. We had 3 in total this morning on our section of beach alone. That was approx 150 souls who landed in the EU with the clothes on their backs and no more. There was a lovely woman who had 3 children, under 6. She had her coat and her handbag and nothing more. The kids were gorgeous but it just made me think…where are they going to end up?

So it’s been an emotional day. By the time our shift finished at 2pm, 15 boats had landed at various points along the shore. They will continue to come tonight and we are back on again in the morning.

I am exhausted, so am off to my bed. More anon.


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