The power of informal networks.
Lighthouse Relief volunteers, Joanna Ågren and Jonny Bradford, have really proved that a few determined people can make a massive difference to so many. They have helped move 48 people out of refugee camps and into apartments to begin a new life. For every social media post, the informal network raised up to 20,000 SEK that went directly to buy provisions for refugees, mostly via the mobile app Swish in Sweden.
See the Facebook page in Swedish, and the blog, in English. Their testimony shows how much of the help in Greece actually came from independent volunteers – private individuals mobilising themselves, without any formal help. These volunteers took it upon themselves to go to Greece, often not knowing what they can do to help until they arrive and meet other volunteers on the ground (including the refugees). In addition, the response of the local Greek population is very moving.
The official refugee camps were not humane places, not well equipped. They are lacking in food, supplies, amenities, not to mention medical care. They are policed and fenced in, and many of the refugees fear being imprisoned indefinitely in these camps.
While governments in Europe spend extraordinary amounts erecting fences along their national boundaries, not one government penny has been spent helping the refugees flee war-torn Syria and Iraq. Not one penny on food and supplies in Idomeni or the shores of Lesbos. Even worse, our governments’ response has been to add to the challenges the refugees face, blocking them from applying for asylum- which, until very recently, was deemed to be a very basic human right.
The blanket decision to demote and declassify all non Syrian and Iraqi nationals to “migrant” status (as opposed to refugee) blatantly ignores all the international humanitarian laws and mandates that have been set up since the second world war. This is not a “refugee” crisis, but a crisis of neglect, an ethical crisis. The inability of the EU to respond rationally, with problem-solving solutions and long-term planning, is only increasing the crisis incrementally by the day.
How many days can a person go without adequate food and shelter? The official hotspot camps set up by the military are full to bursting. At the same time, Jonny and Joanna estimated that around 40 percent of the refugees they saw in the camps in Greece (official and unofficial) are children under the age of 12.
This week’s blog post is the story of one family’s journey from Syria, written by a refugee, Mohammed Abdi, who helped Joanna and Jonny translate at Idomeni. I urge you to spend 5 minutes reading it. May his testimony serve to dispel any doubt you may have in your mind about the urgency of the crisis, and the responsibility the international community has to avoid an atrocity of wilful neglect.