Over the last couple of days there were heavy rain showers and storms that made the crossing extremely dangerous for the people. Today around midday the sky grew dark over the strait of Korakas and the Turkish coast on the other side, and heavy rainfalls started with strong winds. When the team tried to check the situation down by the lighthouse, the fishermen sitting there pointed out a couple of boats that had been trying to fight the wind and current for two hours to arrive on the Greek coast. “They are moving very slowly, probably the gasoline will soon run out.”, said Panaiotis after checking his binoculars. And indeed, one of the boats did not seem to move forward anymore. The team decided to inform the coast guard. “There are many vessels in distress, we have too much to do.”, was the reply. But still about 20 minutes later a big marine ship approached the dinghy floating in the storm and took the passengers on board after some minutes.
Other boats were luckier and arrived by themselves, even though from time to time the motors had stopped working and they were shaken by the waves. Oftentimes the storm passes after a couple of hours, but one thing is clear: the weather will become worse day by day. Still it does not seem to stop the fleeing people from taking the risk of the ride, as dangerous as it may be, in the hope of reaching Europe alive. Given these ongoing tries and the upcoming winter we have to unfortunately expect that the reports of sunken dinghies at the Aegean islands will multiply over the next months.
Since this morning men and women from the towns of Klio and Kapi are blocking our site to the former dairy factory. Yesterday night the people were called upon by the speakers of the authorities to stop our work of “Proti Stassi”. This development is a complete surprise for us. Just Wednesday the chief of the town of Klio assured us that everything is fine. The protest is directed at the rumors that the dairy factory could become the central registration spot of refugees for the whole island. This was never the case or talked about. Also the grounds would be way too small for such a thing. For the works to continue there first of all has to be a political agreement between the mayor of Mytilini and the chiefs of the towns. We hope that the misunderstandings will be dissolved – and that our “Proti Stassi” can open its doors before the winter winds begin.
After all these days when we could only work step by step – because there was neither water nor electricity – today´s visit at the construction site was a real pleasure. Our hearts warmed when we arrived in Tyrokomio and everybody was working to make ends meet. Dimitrakis and his workers were laying bricks, Dimitris and his father have made a huge step into connecting the showers and toilets, Giorgios and his team have painted the facades, Stephanos repaired the windows and Paris had to make some phone calls again, but could finally adapt the electricity. We feel like finally everybody on the site believes that “Proti Stassi” will soon be opened and is working towards that goal. If this speed is kept up we will open soon – and almost on time with the coming fall – our new First Station for our guests. What a great day that motivated our team and shows us that our work, even if slowly, will turn out fine.
This morning we saw helicopters circling over the bay of Thermi and suspected nothing good. Around mid-day we got clarity: 13 people have dies again in the waters around Lesvos, including a five-year old kid. Fishermen told us that they heard the cries of the people on the shipwreck.
We are sad – but also angry. Nobody had to die if the EU would allow migrants to come to us legally. It´s not the bad human traffickers that make the people go onto those unfit boats. It´s a hypocritical politics that promise safety and help, but at the same time forbids the help-seeking people to take the ferry that shuttles between the Turkish coast and Lesvos.
The sea is quiet, the sun is shining. On the horizon they´re first small black dots. As soon as they approach you can see the people in their orange life vests, sitting squeezed together in small dinghys. First five, then ten, then fifteen boats that we can see with our bare eyes. But with the binoculars it´s clear there are a lot more.
In just one hour just on the beach of the “Aphroditis”-Hotel in Molyvos six boats land. Along the coast of Cape Korakas it will be a total of 1.700 people.
One of the boats is still drifting out on the water with a broken motor. A tourist boat takes the boat on and brings them into the small fisher harbor Skala Sykamineas. Upon arrival the people start clapping spontaneously: the afghan men in the dinghy first, then the tourist on “Mercury Express”. Welcome to Europe!
Even though you can´t see it from the outside, the construction work of the old building in Klio into our “Proti Stassi” is going on full speed. The workers of Dimitrakis first cleared out all rooms and disposed all the chemicals that we still there from all the former cheese production. Then new floors were poured, the broken windows were exchanged and new, isolated roofs were built in. The water-connection is done, tomorrow at the latest (the electrician promised!) electricity will flow.
Looking for the roof for our future guests we decided to go with the unconventional solution. Instead of the typical tents we will build a green-house that can give shadow in the summer and safety from the rain and cold in the winter. The production company was so excited about our inquiry that they spontaneously offered us delivering all pieces for just the factory costs. That still is a big number, but we like the idea that with “Proti Stassi” something´s growing. A new culture of togetherness for example?
In the morning Tobias is looking over the water. “Very calm sea”, he says, “today there wil be many boats!” We know he´s right even though we can´t see anything yet. In front of Skala Sykamineas we watch the Turkish coast guard take in a refugee boat, bring the people on board and back to Turkey. Two Greek coast guard ships are also in the bay area that divides Asia and Europe. No typical black dinghies are there that have brought over 90.000 people to Lesvos since February.
In the early afternoon the picture suddenly changes: the coast guard draws back on both sides – like a commando. And then they come. With the binoculars we can see them from Cape Korakas: 8 boats that are coming our way. Later it will be 14, in just a couple of hours landing on the small coast strip between Skala Sykamineas and Eftalou. 700 people again that have made it to Europe.
Besides the humanitarian crisis Lesvos is experiencing the daily arrivals of new refugee boats as a huge environmental issue. Thousands of dinghy wrecks and ten thousands of life vests, car tires, plastic bags and bottles… many beaches have turned into garbage wastelands and on the way to the capital there are tons of waste. During our patrol drives between Molyvos and Skala Sykamineas we try to help with the problem wherever we can. Arriving people are encouraged to use garbage bags – if there are any.