Watch for Omar half way through this amazing film on refugees in Lesvos!
Refugee4Refugees has adapted to changes in refugee arrivals and needs as the crisis wears into it's fourth year.
R4R has resumed search and rescue activities on the south shore of Lesvos for the summer of 2018. Working closely with other NGOs in Lesvos, R4R is responsible for boat spotting, patrolling, and assisting in boat landings on the shoreline south of Mytilini. We are no longer working from the north shore.
R4R will be opening a community centre to better address the needs of the people in Moria, targeted to open in June 2018. Habibi Land Community Centre is intended to support the needs for wellness and a sense of community to the refugees living in Moria camp. The approach taken to the Habibiland Project is gender-sensitive, inclusive, and integrative, with a particular focus on targeting the key demographics of Moria refugee camp. The project will provide gym equipment and facilities for the population of Moria, as well as providing a space for sports (football, volleyball, basketball, etc.), children’s activities, and yoga/dance. To facilitate the inclusion of historically underprivileged groups (namely women and children), the community centre will also provide womens-only activities, womens-only days, and female trainers to empower women through sport and wellness. Additionally, the project will provide children’s activities to the children of Moria camp, facilitating sports education, empowerment through sport, and teamwork.
If you would like to learn more about these projects or donate to assist in their development email email@example.com.
59 refugees arrive to Stage 2 Transit Camp on Lesvos
At midnight R4R Founder Omar Alshakal got a phone call from his friends inside Moria Camp and Aris from Attika Warehouse that there was fighting and a big fire inside Moria Camp. Moria is the largest camp on Lesvos and holds 6000+ people. Omar notified our volunteers on the island and went to help. He arrived to find a lot of people outside the camp, a fire and a lot of confusion as to what was happening inside. There was a lot of emergency personnel, NGO representatives and doctors working outside. Omar found two people unconscious outside the camp and doctors suggested it was best for him to transport them in his van inside as it would be the safest way to get them into a clinic they run inside the camp walls. It's believed they were unconscious from the fire. 30 minutes later, the UN called Omar and told him 59 people had arrived on the southern coast of the island from Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They asked him to get Stage 2 transit camp ready for their arrival as we would cook for them, get them fluids and look after them for the night. They will be transported to Moria Camp later today. As Omar and our team on the ground works furiously to keep up with the needs on the island we want to take a minute to thank everyone who donates to us and volunteers with us. Unfortunately the last 12 hours are not unusual and your donations make sure we have two vehicles ready with fuel to get there and transport the people when needed. They make sure there is food in Stage 2 ready to be cooked and water ready to rehydrate them when they get rescued from the boats.
Netherlands-based Stichting Gelukszoekers or Happiness Seekers Foundation tries to create awareness about social problems in a positive way through creativity. They hope to be able to contribute to a society where everyone can give each other their best, regardless of religion, belief, political opinion, race or gender.
We've teamed up this Christmas and they've generously offered to donate 5 euros from each sale on their website to Refugee4Refugees.
Have a shop, buy your Christmas presents and support us at the same time!
Deal runs from 15 December until 1 January.
We have started a new project to fill a warehouse outside Moria Camp with supplies for refugees. At the moment we are focused on getting items that will help to keep refugees warm this winter, but the potential is huge. We want to use the space to provide a lot of support through aid direct to the refugees going forward.
You can see in our photos we're making great progress with lots of amazing donations from around the world. We only signed the lease one month ago!
If you want to help us get more winter supplies to keep refugees warm go to -
www.refugee4refugees.org/donate if you want to send us things for the warehouse our address is:
2 klm Panagioudas - Kallonis
Refugee4Refugees founder Omar Alshakal spoke to Al Jazeera English after the Syrian government announced it had retaken his home-town of Deir Az Zor from Islamic State.
Photographer Laura Lewis has been volunteering on Lesvos and took some photos of Omar and the Refugee4Refugees team working hard in Stage 2 UNHCR Camp.
Katharine McKinney, Volunteer Coordinator at Refugee4Refugees
Kat will be taking on the role from January so we asked her for a few questions so you can get to know her.
R4R: Where are you from?
KM: I’m from St. John’s, Newfoundland, which is a tiny island on the east coast of Canada!
R4R: Where was your last job?
KM: My last position was as an English teacher on the Thai-Myanmar border, where I taught high school English to Burmese refugees and migrants. In the afternoons I was a fundraising intern with the Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee, a CBO in Mae Sot, Thailand.
R4R: Why did you want to work with Refugee4Refugees?
KM: It felt in a lot of ways like it lined up perfectly with my past experience and budding interests. I was a lifeguard throughout high school, and I certainly prefer positions in the field because I’m pretty high energy – but additionally, my time in Thailand has really shaped a passion for further work in migration. When I found R4R on the Omprakash website, I felt strongly that it would be a great match.
R4R: If you could have a superpower what would it be?
KM: Bringing sunlight wherever I go. No joke. I never miss the cold when I’m travelling.
R4R: What’s your phone wallpaper?
KM: Right now, it’s a picture of my students and a sticker saying ‘Peace in Burma Now’.
R4R: What’s on your bucket list?
KM: Is the actualization of world peace a valid answer?
R4R: If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would you invite?
KM: I’d love to have a conversation with Antonio Guterres, but no doubt he’d be pretty bored.
R4R: Have you met any refugee whose story stuck with you? And what was their story?
KM: One of my students was a child soldier in Karen state (in Myanmar). He defected and became a refugee in a camp in Thailand; a lot of my students come from the camps. He was fairly nonchalant (maybe even proud) of his past; nonetheless there was a lot of pain when he explained the ramifications of his actions on his family and loved ones. He described feeling as though he was selfish – how ridiculous! – and listening to his stories was really a defining moment for me.
R4R: Why have you been drawn towards the issue of migration?
KM: For one, I enjoy puzzles and challenges – and issues of migration are particularly complex, so working on such a multi-faceted puzzle can be satisfying. Pragmatic solutions can be hard to find and even harder to implement, so the fulfilling professional moments can be few and far between. From a more personal perspective, a strong belief in the universality of human rights is also fulfilling, and there’s a lot more satisfaction approaching the problem from a matter of principle, in that respect.
R4R: What would you like to achieve on Lesvos during your time with us?
KM: Honestly, my main goals are a) being useful, and b) learning more about the refugee community in Greece.
Refugee4Refugees has joined a campaign lead by Legal Centre Lesbos with 66 other NGO's calling for urgent action from Greek government to prepare Lesvos' refugee camps for winter.
Solidarity groups and organisations call for urgent action as winter is coming for refugees in Greece
12 October 2017
Over 40 solidarity groups and organisations are calling for urgent action from the Greek local and national authorities to prevent more refugees from dying in the cold as winter sets in once again. They expect more groups and organisations to join them over the next days and weeks.
Several places woke up on Thursday 12 October to find their neighbourhoods plastered with the emblematic picture of Moria camp on Lesvos, covered in snow last winter, while the collective has also launched a campaign on social media with the hashtag #opentheislands.
Six people who were seeking refuge and protection in Europe died in Moria last winter, their deaths linked to inhumane winter living conditions. Their families are still waiting for answers from the authorities as to how and why their relatives died, and for those who are responsible to be held accountable. Only last Sunday 8 October, a five-year-old Syrian girl died in Moria. The cause of death is yet unknown.
The collective of solidarity groups and organisations, expresses their shock and outrage at the current situation in the islands as winter sets in. Approximately 5000 people currently live in Moria camp, which has a capacity of around 2000. This includes the seriously ill, the disabled, pregnant women, many children including unaccompanied minors, and survivors of torture and other trauma. Many now live in woefully inadequate summer tents and have to sleep on the floor on thin sleeping mats or blankets. Likewise, the other Greek hotspot islands – Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros – are dramatically overcrowded, leaving 8000 more asylum seekers without appropriate shelter. The so-called hotspots are currently uninhabitable and to date a clear plan to prevent the tragedies of last winter from being repeated has not been released.
A refugee forced to stay in Moria camp reports about the conditions:
“Living in Moria makes us all sick. In the morning you wake up in a cramped tent or container between other people. It smells disgustingly and I hate that I cannot wash myself properly. In winter it is freezing. Everything is soaked. When you wake up you cannot move your limbs. And you’re covered in ashes. Last winter we burned paper and plastic to stay warm. It is as if we were not human beings.”
The collective stresses that the current situation is not caused by the onset of winter or a sudden increase of arrivals. Rather, it is a direct result of the EU-Turkey Statement and EU asylum and migration policies of exclusion. These policies keep people trapped on the islands for prolonged periods of time, prevent people from ever reaching Europe, and prevent people who are eligible for relocation and family reunification from moving on to other countries in a reasonable time.
Everybody knows that winter is coming. 700 million Euros have been made available to the Greek authorities to manage the situation. As a collective, we want details as to how and where this money is being spent. We also urgently demand that the several relevant actors in the Greek government, at national and local level, assume and clearly communicate their responsibilities. They must then be held accountable for what will happen to refugees and migrants this winter in Greece. The ongoing practice of dodging blame and responsibility for the systematic violation of refugees’ rights in the Greek hotspots is unacceptable and has to stop. It is the role of the prime minister to ensure that all levels of the government function and are held accountable. We call on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to clarify the responsibilities of different actors both locally and nationally, and to present a plan for winter.
Likewise, we condemn all the European governments who have created the EU-Turkey Statement and who put pressure on Greece to implement the EU-Turkey Statement, through the European Commission and other channels. The Statement prioritises maintaining Fortress Europe over all else, trampling roughshod over international human rights law. All European governments share the responsibility for the human rights violations suffered by refugees in Greece today, for those deaths that have already occurred, for those which could follow this winter.
It is with great interest that we have taken notice of the various statements by UNHCR, municipalities, and RIC staff, sounding the alarm over the current situation in the Greek islands. But without action, these statements are empty. We need solutions and immediate action from all responsible actors, including UNHCR, whose mandate is to provide international protection and seek permanent solutions for problems faced by refugees.
We call on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to:
clarify the responsibilities of different actors both locally and nationally, and to present a plan for winter.
We have an amazing new partner in UK organisation Donate4Refugees. We had the good fortune of being introduced to founder Amber Bauer and she found us worthy of funding to support our landing team and supply food for our new arrivals in Stage 2. It will keep us ticking along for another month in Skala Sikamineas. We are beyond grateful.
Donate4Refugees taps in UK donors to bring together funding and then direct it to refugee support projects they've personally verified as reputable. So far they've helped the lives of 16,000 refugees through 96 projects. Amber came to visit us earlier in September and saw Refugee4Refugees' work first hand. She was involved in refugee boat landings and cooking in Stage 2.
Donate4Refugees has funded food, water, clothes and shelter, community spaces, kitchen utensils, mobile phone top-ups, vans and cars and bikes, food vouchers, sewing machines, baby boxes, survival kits, shop re-fits, legal support, mental health protection, flat rentals, asylum information and translations, education workshops, boat landing rescues and much much more.
Check out their website - www.donate4refugees.org.uk