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Zoomable MAP of Lesvos Area, scroll down
ZOOMABLE MAP OF LESVOS AREAS

Why are NGOs so reluctant to help Greece?

 
 166  2271  
Web exclusive

As the island of Lesvos is overwhelmed with immigrants, the world of aid looks on. Beulah Devaney reports.

ngoblog.jpg [Related Image]
Stefanie Eisenschenk under a Creative Commons Licence

‘She was in her 60s,’ Eric Kempson explains. ‘Her son had died in a house fire, he was a schoolteacher, and she had his wife with her, her elderly husband, and a baby. So I put them in my car and drove down to the refugee centre at Moira. Then I went back for the husband because there hadn’t been room for him in the car. And he told me the story again. “My son was a schoolteacher; he was killed in a house fire”.’

Kempson is a woodcarver living in the Molvos region of Lesvos, a Greek island currently inundated by refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. He has lived there since 1999 and explains that the island has always been a popular destination for refugees, ‘but they used to be young Afghan men; now they’re women and children, old people, mainly from Syria’.

Lesvos’ immigration problem cannot be overstated. A recent report

 
 
  
 
 
from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that Greece has more seaborne immigrants than any other EU country, with 68,000 new arrivals in the first half of 2015. On 9 July, a BBC report found that 15,000 of those immigrants entered Greece through Lesvos, with over 1,600 arrivals in one day.

Lesvos’ popularity is due to its location in the northeastern Aegean Sea, a relatively short sea voyage from Turkey. The UNHCR reports that 90% of the immigrants arriving in Greece have travelled through Turkey from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Once they arrive on Lesvos, the refugees must undertake a 40-kilometre walk across the island to Moira, the site of Lesvos’ only reception centre.

Here, the new arrivals receive papers that will allow them to stay in Greece for 1-6 months. They are also given shelter and food, although the centre is stretched so thin that the shelter is often a tent on an abandoned racetrack and the food is provided by the locals.

Lesvos has a population of only 86,000 and residents report feeling overwhelmed by the situation. Kempson is one of many locals who regularly travel up to the north of Lesvos to help those refugees who cannot undertake the 40-kilometre journey. He tries to prioritize the sick and the elderly but, after completing the deadly Mediterranean crossing, hardly anyone is in good shape.

There is a palpable anger among the residents of Lesvos.

This isn’t directed towards the refugees, whose presence on the island has done a certain amount of damage to its tourism trade, but towards the NGOs in charge of monitoring the island.

Giorgos Tirikos-Ergas is a co-founder of Angalia, a small Lesvos-based NGO that was founded to support the growing number of refugees.

‘I knew that things had got really bad when I realized that all the great, international NGOs were monitoring us,’ he explains, ‘but we [the island residents] were still the ones responsible for dealing with this mess.’

Kempson pulls even fewer punches when detailing the support that international aid agencies have offered: ‘The UNHCR disgust me,’ he growls. ‘They have watched people suffer and suffer and suffer and they have turned it into a publicity stunt.’

The UNHCR* has released numerous reports on the rising number of immigrants in Lesvos, but unfortunately, its concern does not appear to take the form of physical help.

Kempson works closely with the local Facebook group Help for refugees in Molyvos and he recounts a day spent cleaning out toilets at the Kara Tepe refugee camp.

The toilets had not been cleaned for two months and volunteers were doing what they could with wheelie bins and bleach. Kempson found UNHCR representatives taking selfies in front of the toilets; when asked if they were going to help with the cleaning, the representatives left.

One Syrian refugee has likened the smell of the camp to the smell of the dead bodies he saw in Syria, but there is still no official UNHCR presence and the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) rapid response team took weeks to arrive.

A recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that Greece has more seaborne immigrants than any other EU country, with 68,000 new arrivals in the first half of 2015

Kempson’s anger at these organizations is palpable, but it would be easier to understand the UNHCR’s actions if its numerous reports, appeals and press conferences had had a positive impact on the support being offered to Lesvos.

Some international NGOs do have a presence on the island: MSF recently offered a bus to ferry vulnerable refugees down to Mytilene (close to the refugee centre) and Amnesty International has released a report on the crisis which urged the European Union (EU) to rethink its current refugee relocation strategy.

These exceptions notwithstanding, international NGOs appear to have followed UNHCR’s example and taken on the role of passive observers.

Of 12 international refugee NGOs I contacted for this article, only 8 responded: 4 issued blanket denials of responsibility and 3 stated, off the record, that they weren’t interested in helping Greece.

Oxfam alone agreed to be quoted, saying that ‘while we understand that many in Greece are in difficulty, the sort of financial support these people need is not within Oxfam’s remit. Therefore we do not currently have plans to operate in Greece.’ The ‘financial support’ mentioned here is currently being offered in Italy by Oxfam Italia.

Over 60% of the refugees on Lesvos come from Syria: a country embroiled in a civil war that has displaced over 7.6 million people, according to the United Nations.

Many NGOs have, understandably, concentrated their efforts on Syria, with further work being done in other source countries such as Iraq and Somalia. However, since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, refugees have been migrating through Turkey towards Greece, and with the temporary axing

 
 
  
 
 
of Italy’s Mediterranean search and rescue programme, the plunging Greek economy and the Syrian war entering its fifth year, it is unsurprising that the crisis has got worse.

Rather than adapt to this rapidly evolving crisis, the NGOs prefer to lay responsibility at the EU’s door: ‘The EU continues to bear collective responsibility for the welfare of migrants seeking entry and asylum in the EU via Greece,’ says Oxfam. ‘The EU must show solidarity for all people left more vulnerable by the Greek crisis, both Greek citizens in need of assistance and the migrants pushed to their borders by conflict, rights abuses and inequality.’

This seems to be the prevailing attitude. It is a form of bureaucratic buck-passing that does not account for the fact that the EU has failed to support the refugees of Lesvos and was recently called on by the UN to do more. Holding back and waiting for government intervention seems counterintuitive for a set of organizations that are, in theory, non-partisan. Still, despite this escalation of need in European countries bordering the Mediterranean, NGOs are still happy to use Greece’s EU membership as a reason to avoid offering aid.

Greece’s geography may be working against the citizens of Lesvos as well, but it is also acting as a screen for the difficulty many NGOs have when it comes to categorizing Greece.

‘Due to donor pressure they [NGOs] are increasingly forced to respond with a discrete project with x number of deliverable outcomes. They reach out to us, too, in this way – “your $50 will buy mosquito nets for a family of four”,’ writes Dinyar Godrej on NGOs’ antics.

NGOs working in Greece could quantify the help they offer, but the fact remains that for many potential donors, Greece is not a country in need. The general view appears to be that yes, refugees are living in tents, with limited medical assistance, reliant on Greek citizens for food, but at least they’re not in Syria any more.

This thinking is flawed and ignores issues around human trafficking, hygiene, post-traumatic stress and various other risk factors.

For now, it appears that the people of Lesvos are on their own. The island’s geography has made it a prime destination for refugees crossing the Mediterranean and Greece’s membership of the EU allows international NGOs to justify withholding aid.

Residents are left in the precarious position of attempting to support thousands of refugees while maintaining the island’s struggling infrastructure. Meanwhile, international observers are left wondering: how bad do conditions in Lesvos need to be before refugee aid agencies stop hiding behind the EU and start rolling up their sleeves?

*The UNHCR were asked to comment but declined.

For more information, read our December issue on NGOs.

- See more at: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/07/21/greece-aid-lesvos/#sthash.aVVuCiq2.dpuf

Non-Governmental Organization= (NGO)

Why are NGOs so reluctant to help Greece?

 
 166  2271  
Web exclusive

As the island of Lesvos is overwhelmed with immigrants, the world of aid looks on. Beulah Devaney reports.

ngoblog.jpg [Related Image]
Stefanie Eisenschenk under a

‘She was in her 60s,’ Eric Kempson explains. ‘Her son had died in a house fire, he was a schoolteacher, and she had his wife with her, her elderly husband, and a baby. So I put them in my car and drove down to the refugee centre at Moira. Then I went back for the husband because there hadn’t been room for him in the car. And he told me the story again. “My son was a schoolteacher; he was killed in a house fire”.’

Kempson is a woodcarver living in the Molvos region of Lesvos, a Greek island currently inundated by refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. He has lived there since 1999 and explains that the island has always been a popular destination for refugees, ‘but they used to be young Afghan men; now they’re women and children, old people, mainly from Syria’.

Lesvos’ immigration problem cannot be overstated. A recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that Greece has more seaborne immigrants than any other EU country, with 68,000 new arrivals in the first half of 2015. On 9 July, a BBC

found that 15,000 of those immigrants entered Greece through Lesvos, with over 1,600 arrivals in one day.

Lesvos’ popularity is due to its location in the northeastern Aegean Sea, a relatively short sea voyage from Turkey. The UNHCR reports that 90% of the immigrants arriving in Greece have travelled through Turkey from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Once they arrive on Lesvos, the refugees must undertake a 40-kilometre walk across the island to Moira, the site of Lesvos’ only reception centre.

Here, the new arrivals receive papers that will allow them to stay in Greece for 1-6 months. They are also given shelter and food, although the centre is stretched so thin that the shelter is often a tent on an abandoned racetrack and the food is provided by the locals.

Lesvos has a population of only 86,000 and residents report feeling overwhelmed by the situation. Kempson is one of many locals who regularly travel up to the north of Lesvos to help those refugees who cannot undertake the 40-kilometre journey. He tries to prioritize the sick and the elderly but, after completing the deadly Mediterranean crossing, hardly anyone is in good shape.

There is a palpable anger among the residents of Lesvos.

This isn’t directed towards the refugees, whose presence on the island has done a certain amount of damage to its tourism trade, but towards the NGOs in charge of monitoring the island.

Giorgos Tirikos-Ergas is a co-founder of Angalia, a small Lesvos-based NGO that was founded to support the growing number of refugees.

‘I knew that things had got really bad when I realized that all the great, international NGOs were monitoring us,’ he explains, ‘but we [the island residents] were still the ones responsible for dealing with this mess.’

Kempson pulls even fewer punches when detailing the support that international aid agencies have offered: ‘The UNHCR disgust me,’ he growls. ‘They have watched people suffer and suffer and suffer and they have turned it into a publicity stunt.’

The UNHCR* has released numerous reports on the rising number of immigrants in Lesvos, but unfortunately, its concern does not appear to take the form of physical help.

Kempson works closely with the local Facebook group Help for refugees in Molyvos and he recounts a day spent cleaning out toilets at the Kara Tepe refugee camp.

The toilets had not been cleaned for two months and volunteers were doing what they could with wheelie bins and bleach. Kempson found UNHCR representatives taking selfies in front of the toilets; when asked if they were going to help with the cleaning, the representatives left.

One Syrian refugee has likened the smell of the camp to the smell of the dead bodies he saw in Syria, but there is still no official UNHCR presence and the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) rapid response team took weeks to arrive.

A recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that Greece has more seaborne immigrants than any other EU country, with 68,000 new arrivals in the first half of 2015

Kempson’s anger at these organizations is palpable, but it would be easier to understand the UNHCR’s actions if its numerous reports, appeals and press conferences had had a positive impact on the support being offered to Lesvos.

Some international NGOs do have a presence on the island: MSF recently offered a bus to ferry vulnerable refugees down to Mytilene (close to the refugee centre) and Amnesty International has released a report on the crisis which urged the European Union (EU) to rethink its current refugee relocation strategy.

These exceptions notwithstanding, international NGOs appear to have followed UNHCR’s example and taken on the role of passive observers.

Of 12 international refugee NGOs I contacted for this article, only 8 responded: 4 issued blanket denials of responsibility and 3 stated, off the record, that they weren’t interested in helping Greece.

Oxfam alone agreed to be quoted, saying that ‘while we understand that many in Greece are in difficulty, the sort of financial support these people need is not within Oxfam’s remit. Therefore we do not currently have plans to operate in Greece.’ The ‘financial support’ mentioned here is currently being offered in Italy by Oxfam Italia.

Over 60% of the refugees on Lesvos come from Syria: a country embroiled in a civil war that has displaced over 7.6 million people, according to the United Nations.

Many NGOs have, understandably, concentrated their efforts on Syria, with further work being done in other source countries such as Iraq and Somalia. However, since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, refugees have been migrating through Turkey towards Greece, and with the temporary axing of Italy’s Mediterranean search and rescue programme, the plunging Greek economy and the Syrian war entering its fifth year, it is unsurprising that the crisis has got worse.

Rather than adapt to this rapidly evolving crisis, the NGOs prefer to lay responsibility at the EU’s door: ‘The EU continues to bear collective responsibility for the welfare of migrants seeking entry and asylum in the EU via Greece,’ says Oxfam. ‘The EU must show solidarity for all people left more vulnerable by the Greek crisis, both Greek citizens in need of assistance and the migrants pushed to their borders by conflict, rights abuses and inequality.’

This seems to be the prevailing attitude. It is a form of bureaucratic buck-passing that does not account for the fact that the EU has failed to support the refugees of Lesvos and was recently called on by the UN to do more. Holding back and waiting for government intervention seems counterintuitive for a set of organizations that are, in theory, non-partisan. Still, despite this escalation of need in European countries bordering the Mediterranean, NGOs are still happy to use Greece’s EU membership as a reason to avoid offering aid.

Greece’s geography may be working against the citizens of Lesvos as well, but it is also acting as a screen for the difficulty many NGOs have when it comes to categorizing Greece.

‘Due to donor pressure they [NGOs] are increasingly forced to respond with a discrete project with x number of deliverable outcomes. They reach out to us, too, in this way – “your $50 will buy mosquito nets for a family of four”,’ writes Dinyar Godrej on NGOs’ antics.

NGOs working in Greece could quantify the help they offer, but the fact remains that for many potential donors, Greece is not a country in need. The general view appears to be that yes, refugees are living in tents, with limited medical assistance, reliant on Greek citizens for food, but at least they’re not in Syria any more.

This thinking is flawed and ignores issues around human trafficking, hygiene, post-traumatic stress and various other risk factors.

For now, it appears that the people of Lesvos are on their own. The island’s geography has made it a prime destination for refugees crossing the Mediterranean and Greece’s membership of the EU allows international NGOs to justify withholding aid.

Residents are left in the precarious position of attempting to support thousands of refugees while maintaining the island’s struggling infrastructure. Meanwhile, international observers are left wondering: how bad do conditions in Lesvos need to be before refugee aid agencies stop hiding behind the EU and start rolling up their sleeves?

*The UNHCR were asked to comment but declined.

For more information, read our December issue on NGOs.

- See more at: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/07/21/greece-aid-lesvos/#sthash.aVVuCiq2.dpuf

While governments seal borders and erect walls, ordinary people are offering support and shelter. Hazel Healy offers a global sample.

1 Stopping 12,000 deaths at sea

Millionaire US-Italian couple Christopher and Regina Catrambone were moved by the sight of a winter coat floating past their yacht on a family holiday in the Mediterranean in 2013. Months later, when 400 people – mostly Syrians and Eritreans – drowned off the coast of Lampedusa, some 160 kilometres from the Catrambones’ home in Malta, they took action. With their life savings, they bought a rescue ship, The Phoenix, and in 2014 privately funded a stint – at a cost of over $500,000 per month – rescuing migrants along the central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy.

The project became the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). Now equipped with two drones and two high-speed rescue crafts, it has gone on to save 12,000 lives. In the words of the founders, ‘those who care about migrants drowning no longer have to wait for governments to act’. After the photo of the refugee child washed up on a beach, Kurdish toddler Alan Kurdi, went viral in September 2015, MOAS received $1 million in just two days. Since then, a steady stream of funding has come from Vietnamese boat people and their descendants in the US, and high-profile Hollywood stars. Their next mission will be to help Rohinyga refugees in the Andaman Sea.

- See more at: http://newint.org/features/2016/01/01/solidarity-knocks/#sthash.NGiCfMib.dpuf
He was supporting a
flash-mob of local volunteers and tourists – supported by local
officials – to clean the camp, which is now a temporary home for
3,000 refugees. Litter was everywhere – and posing a health risk.
The selflessness and dedication of the local volunteers, who have
 been responding to the crisis virtually unaided for several years,
is awe-inspiring.

As I picked up the trash under a searing sun, four questions came

to my mind, the answers to which should make us all

uncomfortable.

First, why is the crisis repeatedly referred to by the media and

by officials in European capitals as a “migrant” crisis? Here, in

Greece, nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the most recent figures from the United Nations

High Commissioner for Refugees, of the more than 77,000 arrivals

in Greece since the beginning of the year, 85% are refugees.

More than 60% of these are fleeing the conflict in Syria, with

others escaping continued violence in Afghanistan. Likewise,

the majority of people arriving nearby in Italy are fleeing armed

conflict in Somalia or conscription in Eritrea.

Even among those who are not refugees, many arriving on

Europe’s shores are vulnerable for other reasons. Some are

unaccompanied children, or victims of sexual trafficking, or have

been tortured and traumatised as they made their way across the

Sahara to Africa’s Mediterranean coast before eventually reaching

Europe. Refugees and other vulnerable people deserve the

protection and assistance to which they are entitled under

international law.

Second, this crisis was not unexpected. For some time, the
International Rescue Committee (IRC) and others have warned that
countries neighbouring conflict areas are reaching their maximum
capacity to absorb any more refugees.

Without legal alternative routes for refugees to enter other

European countries, people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East,

Africa and elsewhere have taken matters into their own hands,

risking their lives – often on flimsy rubber dinghies across

dangerous stretches of the Aegean and Mediterranean – to seek

the sanctuary of Europe.

With more people displaced by conflict globally than ever before–

59.5 million – Europe has to recognise that this problem is not going

away, and that it needs to respond meaningfully to provide help.

Third, why has much of the world looked away from the crisis in

the Mediterranean? The IRC is built to respond to emergencies in

some of the poorest and most conflict-ridden countries. That we

have had to deploy an emergency response team to Europe to

make sure refugees receive clean water and have access to toilets,

rather than defecate in the open, is a sad commentary on the

state of affairs in the region.

For far, far too long, local Greek officials and volunteers have had

to shoulder this burden, and at a time when they have had to

endure paralysing austerity measures and the most recent financial

crisis. Despite these hardships, the compassion and generosity of

local groups has put the international community to shame. And,

the refugee crisis in Greece is only likely to get worse.

Local officials and aid experts estimate that 200,000 refugees will

come to Greece this year. This will undoubtedly overwhelm the

primarily local-led relief efforts.

Afghan refugees sleep on the streets of Mytilene, the capital and
port of Lesbos. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

Europe also needs to provide more support to Greece so that it

can provide a humane and dignified reception for refugees. When

they arrive on Lesbos, refugees are not provided with medical

check-ups or other assistance, aside from that provided by

community volunteers. Until very recently, refugees often walked

40 miles, often in 32C (90F) heat, from the northern coast where

they landed to the Kara Tepe transit camp. This is simply cruel.



11952820_10153339756019355_7903081462002253461_o Elleni Kempson rescues a Syrian child who had just arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos.


Fourth, why have European members states continued the ongoing

asylum charade, forcing refugees to further risk their lives by

requiring them to furtively travel to their desired asylum

destinations?

Europe’s asylum policies mean that a refugee has to apply for

asylum in the country where he or she first arrives, which for

those coming from Libya and Turkey almost always means Italy

or Greece. Desperate to rejoin family members in other European

countries or to live where there are real job prospects, many

people avoid registration and continue their journeys illegally.

Would it not be more humane to allow these vulnerable groups to

seek asylum at European embassies in Athens, or better yet, in

European embassies in their home regions? Or at the very least

ensure safe passage to their desired onward destinations – often

to be reunited with waiting family members?

As it stands, refugees who reach Greece are then forced to travel

through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary to other destinations in Europe,

a route making them vulnerable to human traffickers, gangs and

corrupt officials.

Ultimately, at what point do we all conclude that these people

have already suffered enough and deserve to be aided in their

flight to safety? At the International Rescue Committee, we have

already made this decision.



ngoblog.jpg

Stefanie Eisenschenk under a Creative Commons Licence

‘She was in her 60s,’ Eric Kempson explains. ‘Her son, a schoolteacher, had died in

a house fire with his wife; with her elderly husband, and a baby. So I took some of

them in my car to the refugee centre at Moira. Then I went back to get the husband.

And he told me the story again. “My son was a schoolteacher; he was killed in a

house fire”.’


Kempson is a woodcarver living in the Molvos region of Lesvos. This is a Greek island

now full of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. Kempson has lived there since 1999.

He says the island has always been popular with refugees, ‘but they used to be

young Afghan men; now they’re women and children, old people, mainly from Syria’.


Lesvos has a very big immigration problem. A recent report from the United Nations

High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that Greece has more immigrants

from the sea than any other EU country. 68,000 people arrived in the first half of

2015. On 9 July, a BBC report found that 15,000 of those immigrants entered

Greece in Lesvos. 1,600 arrived in one day.


Lesvos is popular because it is in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It is not far across

the sea to Turkey. The UNHCR report says that 90% of the immigrants arriving in

Greece have travelled through Turkey from countries with wars like Syria, Iraq,

Somalia and Afghanistan.


When they arrive on Lesvos, the refugees have to walk 40 kilometres across the

island to Moira, the only reception centre. Here, the new arrivals get papers to be

able to stay in Greece for 1-6 months. They also get a place to sleep and food

– they often sleep in tents on an old racetrack and the food is from the local people.


Lesvos’ population is only 86,000 and residents feel this situation is too much for

them. Kempson is one of many local people who often go to the north of Lesvos to

help the refugees who cannot walk 40 kilometres. He tries to bring the sick and the

elderly but, after crossing the Mediterranean, a lot of them need help.


The residents of Lesvos are angry. Not at the refugees, even though not so many

tourists come now because of them, but at the NGOs who check the island.

Giorgos Tirikos-Ergas helped start Angalia, a small NGO in Lesvos, to support the

growing number of refugees.

‘I knew that things were really bad when I saw that all the big, international NGOs

were watching us,’ he explains, ‘but we [the island residents] were still responsible

for the problem.’


Kempson says the international aid agencies have offered no support: ‘The UNHCR

are terrible,’ he says. ‘They have watched people suffer and suffer and suffer and

they have turned it into advertising.’

There are many UNHCR reports on the rising number of immigrants in Lesvos, but it

does not give any physical help.

Kempson works closely with the local Facebook group ‘Help for refugees in Molyvos’

and he spent a day cleaning out toilets at the Kara Tepe refugee camp.


The toilets had not been cleaned for two months and volunteers were doing what

they could. Kempson found UNHCR representatives taking selfies in front of the

toilets. He asked if they were going to help with the cleaning, and they left.

One Syrian refugee said the camp smells like the dead bodies he saw in Syria.

But there is still no official group from UNHCR there and the Médecins Sans

Frontières (MSF) team only arrived after weeks.

Kempson is angry at these organizations. It would be easier to understand the

UNHCR if their many reports, appeals and press conferences helped Lesvos.


There are some international NGOs on the island: MSF recently offered a bus to

take old and sick refugees to Mytilene (close to the refugee centre) and Amnesty

International has released a report on the crisis which made the European Union

(EU) think again about its plans to move refugees.

All the other international NGOs are following the UNHCR and are only passive

observers.

I contacted 12 international refugee NGOs for this article, and only 8 responded:

4 said they are not responsible and 3 said that they weren’t interested in helping

Greece.

Only Oxfam agreed for me to quote them. They said ‘we understand that many

people in Greece are in difficulty, but Oxfam is not able to give the financial support

these people need. So we do not have plans to work in Greece at the moment.’ But

Oxfam Italia gives this ‘financial support’ in Italy.

More than 60% of the refugees on Lesvos come from Syria: a country in a civil war

that has forced 7.6 million people to leave, say the United Nations.

Many NGOs have worked a lot in Syria, and are doing more work in Iraq and Somalia.

But since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, refugees have been coming

through Turkey towards Greece. The crisis is now worse because of the problems

with Italy’s Mediterranean search and rescue programme, the Greek economy and

the Syrian war.

The NGOs have not adapted to this changing crisis. ‘The EU is responsible for the

welfare of migrants who want to enter and get asylum in the EU in Greece,’ says

Oxfam. ‘The EU must help all people who need help in the Greek crisis, Greeks and

migrants who come to their borders because of war, abuse of rights and inequality.’

This is what most NGOs think. But the EU has not supported the refugees of Lesvos.

Recently, the UN told them to do more.

These organizations are separate from the governments, so why are they waiting for

governments to do something? NGOs are still happy to say that they do not need to

help because Greece is in the EU.

Greece’s geography position is not good for the citizens of Lesvos. But it is also

hiding the difficulty many NGOs have about Greece.

‘People who donate money usually want to know exactly what their money will do.

And the NGOs also talk about their work in the same way eg. “your $50 will buy

mosquito nets for a family of four”,’ writes Dinyar Godrej.

NGOs working in Greece could say exactly what help they offer, but many people

who could give money think that Greece is not a country in need. Most people think

that OK, the refugees are living in tents, with not much medical assistance, relying

on Greeks for food, but at least they’re not in Syria any more.

This is wrong. It does not include other problems eg. human trafficking, hygiene,

post-traumatic stress and various other risk factors.

For now, the people of Lesvos have no help. Because of the geographical position,

it is one of the main places for refugees crossing the Mediterranean. And because

Greece is in the EU, international NGOs can justify why they do not help.

So the people of Lesvos have to try to support thousands of refugees in the Greek

crisis. And international observers think: how bad do conditions in Lesvos need to

be before refugee aid agencies stop hiding behind the EU and start helping?

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL:

http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/07/21/greece-aid-lesvos/

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes

may have been changed).