The European migrant crisis has reached a tipping point as events in France have stirred up suspicions as to who these migrants are and their motives for making the long, arduous, and sometimes lifethreatening trek away from their homelands. At Afya, our focus is not on the politics of the situation, but on the thousands of men, women, and especially children, who, due to horrendous circumstances in their home countries, are pushed to migrate in order to find a better life for themselves and for their families, but more often just to survive.
Winter brings a slew of new challenges to these migrants; particularly to those who have landed on, and are getting stranded on the Greek islands. Refugee camps are already filled to capacity which creates another problem; people cannot find a place to settle. According to William Spindler at the UNHCR press briefing in November, children who are either wandering on their own, or have become separated from their family, have become a major concern. Many people have started sleeping in shipping containers, but the vast majority are sleeping out in the open. Mothers and children are at great risk without shelter as they are more prone to violence or sexual assault. As winter approaches, Afya recognizes that these problems will become compounded, and we intend to help.
Afya has been keeping a pulse on the situation as it develops so as to help as best we can. We are distributing duffle bags full of items necessary to help those in desperate need of winter supplies at our base camp in Lesvos, Greece. We want the father taking care of his wife and three kids to have dry socks and shoes. We want the children, often on their own and taking care of themselves, to have hand and feet warmers to stave off the unforgiving winter cold. We want mothers and their babies and toddlers, who are sleeping, exposed in the outdoors due to overcrowded refugee camps, to have blankets to keep them warm. These are simple necessities, but Afya realizes they will make a dire situation more manageable and the lives of these displaced people more comfortable.
So who are these migrants? Where are they coming from and why? Why do they need my help? The migrants seeking asylum in Europe are normal people in unfortunate situations, trying to escape war, poor economic conditions, and repressive governments in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Nigeria, Kosovo and Serbia. The current influx, however, is coming from Syria, in the Middle East, where an ongoing civil war and the repressive rule of ISIS, is forcing them out of their country.
Currently, the most traveled route is from Turkey to Greece. The UNHCR reported on November 6th that the total number of migrants and refugees on the island of Lesvos alone is currently at around 10,000. These migrants are ferried to the islands via smugglers who are more than willing to take advantage of the crisis, charging high prices to transport them by sea in unstable dinghies or small wooden boats, and who care little about the safety of the passengers once they get the money. Several boats have capsized off the coast of Lesvos over the past few months, risking the lives of the hundreds on board, and drowning many, mainly children. The UNHCR predicts that over the next four months, up to 600,000 more will make the voyage from Turkey to Greece, and then further into Europe despite the onset of winter and the hazardous travel conditions that it will bring.
The EU is desperately trying to solve the problem; however, given the mounting complexities, finding viable solutions to relocate these displaced people will require both time and a unified effort from all involved. During this chaotic period of moving the migrants out of Greece and into more suitable locations in Europe, Afya is working nonstop to make this transition as easy as possible, and we hope that you will join us as we embark on this important humanitarian mission. We are collecting the following items:
- Rain Boots (Both child and adult sizes)
- Socks† (Both child and adult sizes)
- Hand and feet warmers
- Thermal Mylar blankets
We will be sending duffle bags of relief supplies to medical teams who are on the ground to help these families, in Lesvos, Greece. Please donate any supplies you can spare!