Diary Entries from this Week’s Mission to Lesvos

Before moving forward, SCM would like to extend our gratitude to our volunteers that have done so much since the start of these missions. They are humanitarians in the true sense and we couldn’t be more grateful for their efforts. We’d also like to take a moment to recognize David Swissa, who has been leading the teams before Jamal and Basel’s arrival (our SCM regional representatives). Here’s to the amazing work this team has accomplished, and we are looking forward for the next team to arrive today and tomorrow while this one continues the invaluable work needed. 

Day 1

Dr. Nasser gracefully adjusted his flight to arrive Mytilini around 11:45 so I was able to pick him up along with Dr. Hina And Dr. Sabrina and make one trip to Molyvos.

We stopped by Camp Oxy and they were so grateful to have Dr. Nasser help out tomorrow since their only doctor was departing tonight. The camp had over 1500 refugees being serviced and bused to the Camps Moria and Kherapati.

We dropped the luggage in the hotel and drove to the landing team operated by Boat Refugee Foundation of the Netherlands where Dr. Hina and Dr. Sabrina will work tomorrow.

There were a few boat loads of refugees and about 5 more arrived as we were in the area. Both volunteers and NGOs work efficiently together well supplied and organized

We drove on to our old post in Sikaminea where two boat loads were being processed. We provided vitamins and minor supplies along with transportation to a refugee couple with a toddler. There was a foot injury case which Nasser advised to go ahead to Kherapati where he can be referred to Mytilini Hospital.

David transported this refugee and another diagnosed with hypothermia to the bus depot 28 kilometers up the road.

Day 2

Hectic but productive day with rougher seas and cooler temps. In turn, it reduced the number of boats but also increased cases for medical attention.

Dr. Hina and Dr. Sabrina manned the medical post with nurses from the French Le chaine de l’espoir chain of hope. SCM provided some OTC medical supplies there and in Camp Oxy.

Camp Oxy was manned by Dr. Nasser and the unofficial triad nurse David along with nurses from Le chaine de l’espoir.

We coordinated the assignment of other doctors into Sikiminea point along with supplies provided by SCM.

Later on we distributed Dr. Nasser’s number among volunteers so that he could respond to urgent cases.

Here’s Dr. Nasser directing French volunteers. Next you see Dr. Hina and Dr. Sabrina organizing medications and supplies before the next boat.

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Day 3

Extremely hectic day. Started with calm waters and a trip to the pharmacy where we purchased much needed antibiotics, anti-acids, anti-sickness, anti-vert and many hygiene items. We then headed to our post.

Dr. Hina and Dr. Sabrina were heads down in medical tent. David distributed food in a tent next door.

There was a constant flow of boats that didn’t stop till close to six o’clock.

No time for lunch or break. Returning to the hotel in the evening we found Basel and Jamal. Discussed next steps and drove to a team dinner.

Day 4

A beautiful day and calm seas as if peace and justice have suddenly blanketed our planet; not one refugee in sight. So we are told that the Greek prime minister and the Austrian foreign minister were coming to tour the landing sights, in an attempt for an agreement to be made between Greece and Turkey to freeze refugee smuggling, and return all boats to Turkey.

All volunteers are off and the entire coast line empty. Dr. Hina, Dr. Sabrina and Jamal cleaned up our op sight and around it, organized supplies, and discussed preparedness as it was rumored the refugee traffic would resume at 15:00.

Day 5

Last night after all team members went to their rooms, Dr. Hina received a message from Le chaine de l’espoir that 16 boats are arriving. The team mobilized and was on site in a few minutes supported with Norwegian volunteers from our hotel.

We waited on our Eftalou site with Boat Refugees Foundation for a couple of hours. We received medical cases from Skala Sikiminea. The 16 boats arrived to the west and east of our site. We called it a night after we confirmed with regional coordinators that no more action was expected.

This morning we moved onto Camp Kerapate and things were running very smoothly. We recognized some refugees that we helped last night.

Then in Camp Moria, the situation was tenuous and mired in misery. Mounds of trash and raw sewage. Riot police in gear at the outer gates added to the drama.

Lines of fresh arrivals, full of tired hungry thirsty and frustrated, waiting to enter the outer perimeter. Afghans, Iraqis and Africans. UK Ghazal Trust and Dutch Boat Refugees Foundation arrived with fruited and water. We helped an Iraqi youth contact the UNHRC to request a flight back to Baghdad. He said he’d rather get killed in Iraq than be humiliated in foreign lands.

On way back to Eflatou, we stopped at Camp Oxy where we were rushed to the medical tent to treat a few cases. Dr. Hina and Dr. Sabrina are pictured below busy at work. There was a couple of boat loads at the camp who arrived earlier. Sabrina and Hina had to stay behind since there were no other physicians. We headed back to base as we got a message with confirmed 23 boats arriving tonight. There are no sightings as of 8:40 now but we are on still on standby.

We see three scenarios moving forward. The first, there’s an agreement between EU and Turkey for total freeze of refugee movement over the sea to Greece. The third, would be no change to the normal flow. We think the second scenario, regardless of an agreement or none, smugglers will be smugglers. This is more probable. The proof is that we still see boats.

Day 6

We started late this morning after a hectic multiple boat response trips last night, well into 2:00 in the morning. The entire team had to also respond to a medical call in Camp Oxy. When the team arrived it was three cases; two children, one with fever and the other with fever and tonsillitis. The third needed blood thinner for a chronic condition.

At breakfast, we recruited a vacationing German school teacher. She joined our ground team. We purchased some needed supplies at the pharmacy and headed to the regional volunteer coordinator quarters to check on news and add Jamal to the local WhatsApp group.

We stopped in Camp Oxy and ran into volunteers caring for about two boat loads, mostly Afghani families. Sabrina and Hina assisted Le chaine de l’espoir doctors with a couple of patients while we spoke with the Spanish camp manager Omer. We then went to the regional clinic in Kalloni where we had to asses their resources for cases requiring urgent care and diagnostic equipment like X-rays machines.

The manager on duty was a Palestinian doctor, received us well and wanted to take us for coffee. He said we should not hesitate to use their ambulance services for urgent cases bound to Mytilini hospital. He usually sees around 20 cases in his private (and only) clinic in Monthomados (a nearby town). He provided us with his personal numbers and the clinic’s.

We finally met George from Agalia, had a fruitful outcome for help. Returning to base in Eflatou, we stopped in Oxy again which was empty except for a few volunteers. As we were leaving news came of three boat arrivals in Eflatou.

As we rushed to ready our post, two boats arrived. An additional boat load landed and was being served by a few volunteers. Our three boats of about 130 mostly families. Wet, cold, hungry and tired from sailing the rough waters. They were promptly served with towels, emergency blankets, dry change of cloths, water, fruits and bread. Another boat of Afghani mostly single men arrived 2 kilometers east of post. All satisfied and comforted lined up waiting for a bus ride to Oxy Camp.

Team retreated to hotel to refresh our supply and prepare for a probably another hectic night.

Pictured below is our newest field recruit Christina fishing for shoes size 37 men.

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SCM is still in need of Arabic speaking volunteers for the months of October and November. We are currently working on building an “Information Center” for incoming refugees. A tent in which once medical and humanitarian services have been provided, refugees can receive valuable information on where to go next and what resources are available to them. If you are interested in volunteering with us, please see the Dates and Registration page for more information. Here are more pictures from this week’s work. 

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