Today we are all tired but we showed up and saw 48 patients. One young woman from Cameroon, beautiful 20 year old, said she was 2 months pregnant. She complained of her breasts hurting, vomiting and acid reflux. I told her that was part of being pregnant, sadly she is alone. Has been at the camp 2 months. I asked about her family, her parents were killed in Cameroon, she got teary eyed and glazed over. No mama to counsel her thru her first pregnanct, she is alone and no friends. We gave her 3 months of prenatal vitamins and some antacid. I sat and hugged her and held her hand for awhile. Her name is Crystals. She is living inside the wire as a single woman.
This afternoon Brian and I went to visit the mayor of the island. What an enlightened person. he was very willing to talk and had a very good translator.
Some background on Lesvos: It is an island of 90,000 and the Capitol Mytilini has 30,000.
In 2015 when the refugees started coming in there were 13,000 people a day coming in boats from Turkey. People were lining up, laying on the streets , they were wet and cold and sleeping on every doorstep and the island was overwhelmed. There was no time to prepare but the mayor and the people recognizing these are humans jumped into the waters to help them. They fed them and clothed them and gave them medical care but the logistics were overwhelming. At that time the EU had no refugee policy. In the absence of it he stepped up and took charge. The island government, on its own, built the first camp and are proud of how well it is providing (we are getting permits to visit this camp tomorrow). They are not proud of Moria camp run by the National government. He said it is like Dacahau, Auschwitz or Guantanamo. There are over 12 similar camps in Greece.
He said this is really not a money issue. You cannot solve a global problem by throwing money at a small island. PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO HELP. Lesvos tries to solve the problem but they cannot, it is a global issue, it just happened here.
The analogy the mayor used is that the island responded to this humanitarian crisis and it is like they are in a weight lifting contest and they lifted a world record and they are waiting for the judges to say ok put the weight down . . . but the judges are silent.
The EU has not stepped up. The mayor said this is a global crisis, if the EU countries each took a portion of these refugees it would be no problem. Surely if a small island of 90,000 can do this the EU can. He politely did not mention the USA , where currently we are throwing people out and building walls.
The mayor’s challenge is the refugees and the care of his island. He has used over 5 million euros for the refugees and needs to keep the island happy by using money for infrastructure. In 2017 other things happened here. An earthquake destroyed one village, floods destroyed three villages on the west side of the island and last winter there was unprecedented snow fall that split the island. The mayor has to attend to this while managing refugees.. He said people are getting fatigued by this crisis as it sits on their laps in Lesvos. He fears if it continues to be on their shoulders there will be major discontent and the rise of the right wing. He said the Greeks remember there were Nazis here in ww2 and people will blame each other and Lesvos for not helping enough.
His analogy was they are holding a lit bomb that is waiting to blow up. He is hoping the islands legacy will be one of generosity and that they answered the call of history. His hope for his personal legacy is that people will have seen him as a leader in the crisis, he proposed what then became European policy and the EU arrangement with Turkey. In a utopian world nobody would leave their countries. The grandfathers of Lesvos came from Asia Minor as refugees and so they know what it means to be a refugee. He hopes in a 100 years people will look back on Lesvos and say it was an island of solidarity and love. If however this crisis continues too long or increases in scale it will be very bad for people in Lesvos and the world.
This is a real tribute to the Greeks – their willingness to put aside their needs for the immediate care of over one million people desperately seeking asylum and there are one million more waiting in Turkey. Could our communities come together with such integrity and care for our fellow humans? Would our country just slam the doors in their pained and tortured faces?
We need to pressure the UN, the EU and the USA to act globally!