This morning the team split up into two groups. Three people went to the beach to wait for possible boats while the other three stayed in bed. This way we can conserve our energy a bit. No boats arrived at the beach this morning but a bit further down a group of Pakistani had arrived late at night and spent the night on the beach. In the morning they had started making their way to the police station. We stopped to give them water and food and afterwards they continued on their journey.
After loading up 1,500 bottles of water we headed towards the police station. We couldn’t believe what we saw. The inner court yard of the police station is usually filled a chaotic mess of waiting people every day. Today, however, a team from the UN was there to organize the process. A few people were let in while the rest had to wait outside. The paperwork went much faster than before, which was desperately needed. They even placed toilets and showers outside! We heard that they’re placing 10 toilets and showers in the Syrian camp as well. As soon as the water has been connected they’ll be able to use them.
The mood was very relaxed this morning. The refugees saw the changes as well and were hopeful. The police seemed stress-free as well and for the first time I was able to compliment them, thank them, and even joke around with them. We were able to hand out water and talk to the people. I saw the man that had started the fight yesterday and we talked to each other for a while. He even insisted on taking a picture with me (read yesterday’s blog to understand the irony of this).
A group of high-ranking Greek officials have contacted us and I am meeting them this afternoon for several meetings. You would think they would want to talk to the Red Cross, the UN, or MSF rather than a small organization like us, but they chose us because we give the people our care and attention and take the time to talk to them. The officials had seen how we work and wanted to hear from us what was and still is needed. I thought this was quite the compliment for our foundation. These officials are engaged with their island and what is happening, and we have shared many ideas with each other. The visit of Frans Timmermans has set things in motion and we’re very happy about that. You can see that the mood amongst the refugees was completely different today.
Until this afternoon. We decided to hand out flip-flops that we had received, along with oranges and carrots (which we do regularly to provide vitamins and is greatly appreciated). We were working with a large group and trying to create some order in the chaos. We even managed to form queues as normally we’re besieged when handing out items. It took a while and we finally started handing out things. At a certain point, a Syrian yelled something at a group of Pakistanis, causing the mood to darken and irritations to spring up. We tried to calm the situation down but this person seemed hell-bent on escalating the situation further. He left, but came back with a group of people with sticks. At this point we decided to leave immediately. We couldn’t work from a safe situation and that was unacceptable. We hadn’t experience this before and could do nothing other than leave.
Eventually, a few of us went to a smaller location and were able to hand out items in a peaceful setting. The people there were very happy with the shoes and flip-flops for their feet, and the oranges.
Tonight we’ll discuss our plan for tomorrow. It will be an important day that I can’t tell you about quite yet, so find out more tomorrow night!
(By Jolanda Kromhout, https://vrijspraak.wordpress.com | Translated by Selma Rooseboom)