Conscience International’s project representative in Greece, Shealy Smith, was there when the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos received its 10,000th current resident. This is the greatest influx since the migrant crisis began in 2015. In mid- August, thirteen boats carrying 499 people landed on shore, the first stop on an unforeseeable future. They arrive shaken and uncertain. But they also arrive with hope.
Shealy, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, USA, headed to Athens, Greece in July where she is now working to welcome weary refugees who are fleeing wars and persecution in their home countries.
“Our new arrivals holding area is only meant to hold one hundred people, but due to special cases some two hundred have had to stay in this area for more than two months for lack of room in section A (where disabled arrivals live) and section C (where single women live), Shealy reports.
“We have been trying to house the new arrivals as quickly as possible, but boats keep coming in and we can only house about 100-150 a day.”
When new POCs (people of concern, the camp’s name for refugees) arrive, they are taken first to orientation before going to the new arrivals hall where Shealy and other team members give them a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, and backpack containing clothes and toiletries.
Most of the boats in the past month have been Afghani people, but lately there have been boats of people from Syria, Algeria, and Gambia, Shealy noted. “There are a handful of families who come, but it seems that most are single men and an overflow of minors (usually age 14-17). Their families are hoping to get them to Europe for better opportunities as well as removing them from the risk of being recruited by terrorist groups,” she said.
“I asked one minor, Esanullah, how he was doing and he said he was sad because he had just spoken by phone with his mother and that he misses her so much. His mother and the rest of his family are in Afghanistan. He doesn't know if he will ever see them again.
“I was teaching another minor, Mukhlas, some English words when he asked me how to say the word "die" in English. He told me his mother and siblings had died in his home country and that he had come to Moria alone.”
Even though so many people in camp have seen so much atrocity and been through very difficult times due to war in their home countries, or other forms of persecution, Shealy oftentimes sees a different face when they come to new arrivals.
“I see families smiling and children playing, minors laughing, friends sharing a meal. Even in times of great difficulty and hardship, they still smile. They still have hope. They are happy to be live.”
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