Another year has passed and 2018 is history. I am trying to find the bright spots of the year that has passed when it comes to Europe’s handling of the displaced people arriving our continent. I’m struggling to find the positive highlights.
By Trude Jacobsen, secretary general, Dråpen i Havet
People who flee from war and conflicts and who still come to Europe daily, are people we would rather not hear anything about. And much less would we open our eyes to their suffering. They can stay on the Greek islands where we can`t see them. Where we do not hear their desperate crying in the night, and where we do not notice the stench that spreads out of overflowing sewerage rooms. Some of the camps in Greece are referred to as the worst refugee camps in the world. During periods they have hosted more than three times their capacity.
I will remember 2018 as the year in which Europe became an almost impossible last hope for refugees, both in terms of being able to stay and when it comes to family reunification. “As long as they don`t come here” you can read between the lines of almost any politician speaking. And if they still come, Europe’s leaders will find new solutions. Like our neighbour country who is planning to place people on uninhabited islands, so they don’t have to work for neither integration nor understanding.
A Drop in the Ocean is one of the organizations that has worked the longest with the refugee situation in Greece. That is quite surreal to think about actually, because after all, we are only 3.5 years old as an organization. Although we have been in Greece since late summer 2015, the Greek bureaucracy is still an extremely demanding landscape to navigate. We are never confident that activities we are asked to do today, are also requested in six months or even just three weeks. That why we have realized that flexibility is one of our most important strengths. But even if we live with a constant uncertainty about our presence, there is nothing compared to the situation of the people we meet in the refugee camps. The people who have left everything they owned, hoping to find security, freedom and a worthy life. More than 40,000 have come to Greece in 2018. This is more than the previous year. Their uncertainty is a thousand times worse. For the displaced people, this is all about a life in terror or in freedom, and sometimes even about life or death.
We have reasons to be proud of the job we do in Greece, but we still have a lot to learn. I believe we always have things to learn in a sector like this one. The situation is changing constantly, the country we work in is changing, the people we meet are changing. That is why willingness to change is extremely important, and perhaps precisely the reason why some of the smaller, new organizations are able to continue their relief work in Greece, while many of the larger, established ones have left.
A Drop in the Ocean is now working at four locations in Greece, and our camp activities are often fully booked. Displaced people who come to Greece know they have months and years ahead of them before they will know whether they can stay in the country or not. They want to spend their time on useful activities such as language training, handicrafts or sports. Many also like to spend their time volunteering for the relief organizations. These volunteers are undoubtedly among our most important resources.
Establishing a new “Drop Centre” in Moria, Lesvos has been one of the highlights of the year. The two floors centre offers several activities, and is undoubtedly a warm and friendly place to come. In addition to the many activities run at the centre, we have contributed with 3,500 sleeping bags and blankets to Moria camp this fall. With the bitter cold of the Greek islands, such distributions help save lives.
Fortunately, we still have good flow of volunteers who want to contribute as field workers with A Drop in the Ocean. Many have volunteered with us several times, which is an important statement of confidence to all of us trying to facilitate for the relief work the best we can.
There is no doubt that the need for help is still large in many camps. If we had more resources, we would have started even more activities. A Drop in the Ocean has been requested to assist several new places in the year that have passed, but has had to decline these requests due to lack of resources.
We are incredibly grateful to anyone who wants to make a difference, either by working as volunteers in the camps, or by contributing from home, with financial help or with other services. We need you more than ever before in the year we now enter! Isolated our contributions are like small drops, but all together they make a whole ocean of help.
In the year to come, some of the most important things we will do is to keep you and the world informed about what is happening. We must never let the situation in Greece become a forgotten crisis. We need the world to know! We need the solidarity with our fellow human beings kept alive.
I wish you all a happy new year, with lot`s of love, and a year where we all take care of each other!