KOS – Breaking point

The weather’s changed.

Last night it started raining, really bad. We knew this was going to happen and we’ve been trying to prepare for this, but the major won’t make space available for the refugees to hide inside (a few days ago the refugees were chased out of the shade of the park into the burning sun, so the park by the road would look nice for the election parade), and Kos is a sunny tourist island, so no rain clothes or ponchos available (or only a handful), we’ve been trying to get them over from The Netherlands, but we didn’t succeed in time (it takes a very long time to get mail delivered to Kos, so in getting the ponchos we’re depending on people coming over, who can take them). We tried, we really tried.

Last night it started raining. The rainfall was so heavy that it woke us up at night. And then the thought of what it would be like for the refugees on the streets in their single-wall tents, kept us awake. Then the thunder, which sounded like loud explosions, started. Last night, we already saw the water splashing up on shore (see picture) and the wind pulling the tents. At least the tents were moved off the beach and a few meters away from the water splashing up, but still. We helped to move tents behind a wall, out of the wind, but it all felt like too little. We would go back to our beds between walls and with a roof, they would stay out there during the night.

Even though we never would have thought anyone would dare – or be able to – cross the sea in this weather (even ‘real’ boats were destroyed by the storm; see pictures), 3 people of our team went out into the rain this morning. Just in case. Against all expectations, a boat arrived. 20 People on board. They lost 5 people along the way. One more boat arrived. We have no way of knowing how many people on how many boats made the desperate attempt last night to cross the water in the storm. The only reason we could think of that they would have taken this even bigger than normal risk is that they would have paid the human trafficker beforehand and would lose their money (and chance) if they wouldn’t go that night. After they arrived, for a few moments, the sky cleared and a rainbow seemed to come out of the sea (see picture).

This morning, when we went over with water and fruit, we found most tents destroyed by the wind, refugees crowded together in front of the police station underneath a little roof (the only place to hide for the rain), we went by every single tent to look for people, we found 10 people in a tent made for 3, men only wearing their underwear because all clothes were wet, I saw a man using a small plastic bag to scoop the water out of his tent. We were out there for only 2 hours, but even our underwear was wet (despite the garbage bags we were wearing as improvised ponchos), and we were chilled to the bone. We devoured many rolls of garbage bags, which we turned into ponchos.

The fact that we were wearing the garbage bags as well, made it feel a little less bad that we were giving them garbage bags to wear. Many refugees offered their help (which is always the case, but even more now), or offered us a place in their tent to hide from the rain. But we were out there for only 2 hours and afterwards we would have a few moments to get dry, get warm, and put on dry clothes, before heading out again. But they can’t. Everything they own is wet. The tents are destroyed, soaking wet, or both. They are soaking wet and cold, and there is no way for them to get dry or warm. And this heavy rainfall is expected to continue for 3 days (see picture).

I’ve seen a lot here. Refugee boats arriving, babies of not even a month old being carried of these boats, life vests in the distance of which I wasn’t sure whether there was a body inside or not, talking to lovely, bright, young Syrian men in Turkey who were going to make the boat trip to Kos that night but who we’ve never seen again at this side of the water, a father who is desperately going from island to island trying to find his son because he’s sure that his son survived the sinking of his boat, a man telling the story of how ISIS beheaded his brother, and refugees leaving Kos on a ferry to Athens with so much hope in their eyes, but who still have such a troublesome journey ahead of them.

But today I cried my first tear. Because no matter how hard you try, sometimes you can’t move a mountain.

Door: Frederieke