Boat Refugee Foundation started to provide emergency aid along the Greek coasts. Refugees were helped on the shores and dry clothes and water were distributed. Due to changes in the political situation in Greece, the focus of our help has changed from acute care of boat refugees on the coasts in Greece to more structural and prolonged help in the (overcrowded) refugee camps. The number of refugees that cross the sea has decreased considerably. Additionally, Frontex (organisation that is responsible for the control of European border management) has become very active on the water, together with the Turkish and Greek coast guards. Practically all refugees that do cross the sea are picked up before they reach the shore. Therefore, we critically evaluated our activities as Boat Refugee Foundation. On the one hand, we were not needed any longer at some areas, but on the other hand, we saw new possibilities and opportunities. Our help changed from ‘crisis management’ to ‘structural help’.
We have Psychosocial support teams on Lesbos and Samos.
Boat Refugee Foundation has been to Lesbos in early July 2015 to take stock of the needs and to see what type of aid would be needed in the near future. In the mean time we co-operate, as an organisation, with local volunteers and are sending groups of volunteers from the Netherlands.
A group of approximately 200 vulnerable refugees who arrived on Lesbos before the EU/Turkey deal stay in Caritas Hotel. These refugees include families, the ill, the disabled and the elderly. Each afternoon, the medical team provides medical help and refers to hospitals/specialists where needed. Some members of the field team go to Silver Bay each afternoon to talk with the residents and play with the present children. We also organize and conduct activities. Additionally, we weekly take a group of residents with us to help clean up the shores. In this way, we involve them in our work and give them a change to feel useful. (Photo: volunteer Bart-Jeroen in an English lesson of Boat Refugee Foundation)
the medical team is every evening and night present in Camp Moria to provide the needed (emergency) aid. Between 23.00 and approximately 02.00 o’clock, they are accompanied by some members of the Field team. They walk inside the camp and talk with refugees. On the one hand to give some distraction and provide information, on the other hand to make connections and to keep up with the situation in Moria.
Since the start of April, Boat Refugee Foundation is involved, on request of UNHCR, in the transport of vulnerable (groups of) refugees from camp Moria to the (more open) camp Kara Tepe. Daily, two members of the Field team are responsible for this task (afternoon/start of the evening). In addition, we also take care of transport for refugees from Kara Tepe to Moria (and back) when they have to be there for their judicial procedure.
In the camp Kara Tepe, our team is involved in the distribution of food and clothes. Here, the meals are served from tent to tent so that the refugees do not have to stay in line for hours, waiting on their food. Clothes are provided ‘on appointment’. In addition, our team has patrol services in this camp in the night. These services are intended to ensure the safety for people in this camp (and the present equipment).
Shortly, we will start with the organisation of activities in the refugee camp Pikpa. We have permission to start an educative program for both children and adults. In this program, we will organise language lessons together with the refugees. Also, we will teach about psycho-social problems.
On Lesbos is also a medical team and SAR-team present.
Early January (2016) Boat Refugee Foundation has completed a reconnaissance mission to Samos. In consultation with UNHCR and several other organisations, it was decided that our foundation is also needed desperately on this island.
The field team on Samos works in the hotspot. A hotspot is an official camp in which refugees are registered and are obliged to stay. The hotspot has limited provision and the circumstances are poor. A lot of refugees are packed in the overcrowded camp without any prospect.
The field team makes a difference by preparing food (e.g., porridge) for young children and providing other baby products (e.g., diapers). We also engage in informal activities with children: games, drawing, rope jumping, and every evening is it film-evening. We also pay attention to the mothers of the young children. Breast-feeding is often a problem. We try to stimulate mothers to breast-feed instead of starting immediately with powdered milk. Together we are looking for solutions.
Next to the children activities, the field team engaging in teaching activities. We have a few teachers as volunteers who teach the scheduled courses (English, art, mathematics, geography, history). There is also the opportunity for non-teacher volunteers to give a one-time workshop in an area of your own expertise.
On Samos is also a medical team active.
In June 2016, the teams of Athens and Idomeni were combined into team Malakasa. Malakasa is an official camp close to Athens.
Malakasa is a camp in which 1300 refugees live and is currently expanded up to 1500 refugees. Only families and relatives live in this camp. At the moment, there are 450 children. At the invitation of the Greek government, Boat Refugee Foundation is also active in this camp. The field team can make a difference by providing education for women and children. Maths, English & Life skills are valuable and important topics. In addition, the field team will also try to make a meeting point for women where they have the opportunity to tell their stories and learn from each other. Possibly, a psycho-social program will also be set up.