I’m now back in Ankara after 16 days on Lesvos. It felt weird to leave, but I think the timing is quite good after all. The estimated number of refugees left on the island is 300, compared to 5’000 people when I arrived. Many people believe that the arrivals will increase again in the spring, but it is also super difficult to predict as it depends on the weather, the Turkish coast guards, the conflicts, the border situations and frankly the politics in the whole world. I will summarize my last two days on the island, and maybe post some more pictures or random thoughts, then the journey will be over for this time.
I did two night shifts at the beach, yesterday – until I had to head towards the ferry – and the night before. No sign of any boats apart from the coast guards in the morning. I also did my last shift at the medical tent on the 7th, we had very few patients, some who had quite recently arrived who complained about nausea since the boat trip – I cannot imagine what it must have been like to cross the sea in that weather. During the day, the guys with the floor finally showed up and covered our wooden planks with some waterproof material. Yay! We also went to buy some more planks and screws to build a couple of shelves, and I was sent to buy boxes and some stationary. This place will get organised (y)
I picked up four people from Kurdistan (Iraq) and Syria in the car while driving to Mytilini, unfortunately none of them spoke that much English. ”We’re going bazar,” they said, and I tried to figure out what in the world it could mean, asking in vain what they wanted to do. In the end, we figured out that they wanted to buy ferry tickets – at least I hope that’s what they wanted as I dropped them at the port. I really really wish that I could speak Arabic.
After running around in Mytilini for 2 hours, learning that most shops seem to be closed between 14-18, I decided to head back to Moria before the sunset. I took one last walk along the shore, where some people were waiting for the ferry to Athens. Sometimes I would recognize someone – more times, others would recognize me. We would have a short conversation, something like ”Are you leaving today? Where do you want to go? Good luck! Is everything alright? Do you need anything?” and whatever our language in common would allow. I don’t know if it’s because there are fewer people at the camp now, or if I’ve had more time to spend outside of the tent, or if the people who are still here have stayed longer, but it feels like I’m starting to recognize more people. It felt weird to meet them on the shore, and also to know that they were about to leave.
I must say that I was surprised by how few people said that they were aiming for Sweden, in general. During my time here, I’ve met maybe 3-4 people who have said that they want to go to Sweden, others answers ranged from Italy to Germany to Norway to UK to Canada.
At the shore, I also met some of the Moroccan boys who used to sit at a tent just outside of our medical center.
”Are you leaving?” I asked.
”Yes, we are leaving!” one of them, who speaks the most English, answered.
”Wow,” I said, ”Are you going to Athens?”
”Yes,” he answered, ”but we don’t have money”
”What?” I asked, confused.
”We don’t have money, we have no ticket,” he explained
”What? But are you leaving?” I asked, even more confused. None of them had money, or tickets. I could’ve paid for their tickets – another volunteer also left me his fundraising money, which he told me to spend on ferry tickets if necessary, but I didn’t even understand if they had their registration done – considering that they were from Morocco.
”Are you going to camp?” they asked me in return, ”Can we come with you?”
”Yes of course,” I said, ”but its a small car, there is only space for 3 people. Maybe 4, if you sit tight together”
”Okay, no problem!” they said happily, and squeezed in 5 people in the car after I had finished handing out the cookies and crackers left in my bag.
”How long have you been here?” I asked the boy from before.
”13 days,” he said. That’s a looong time. Most people don’t stay for more than 3-4 days.
Back in Moria, I took a walk through the whole camp to say goodbye (mentally, to the place). It was if possible even more empty than last time. It felt like everything was about to end, though I know that is not true. But it’s good, because now we (or the people who are left) have some time to improve the infrastructure and clean up a bit, and the refugees can get somewhat proper protection from the weather in the huts and houses rather than the tents. Quite a lot of tents also fell down during the past days storms. I finished my business at the medical tent, and then came the time to say goodbye to the people.
The last person I saw at the camp was one of the younger boys from Morocco. An Arabic interpreter happened to be around, and this was pretty much the first time that we actually spoke, even though we had spent the last three evenings together. That’s kind of funny. ”I’m going tomorrow morning, to Turkey,” I told him. ”No, don’t go” he said. I gave him my number. ”I will call you,” he said, ”promise to answer?” What language was he planning on speaking if he called, I couldn’t help wondering. He is 17 years old and here alone. ”Where do you want to go?” the interpreter asked. ”Anywhere safe, where I can have a good life,” he answered. We shook hands and said goodbye. ”She is like my sister,” he told the interpreter, and my heart cried a little. What will happen to them?
The journey is over for this time.