Thursday, March 24, 2016

1,000 Cigarettes

Though writing my blog entry yesterday felt final, there are stories yet to tell, and I can't resist telling this short one, even if I am one of the stars of it.

On Sunday, I think--the week's been a blur--when the Pakistanis had held their meeting to discuss what they would do, and decided that they would go in to Moria quietly with heads held high, small groups began heading down the hill to the Syrian gate where they knew they were going into detention. There were some tears, lots of hugs and handshakes, a few brave jokes.

Our lovely tea tent people who passed out thousands of cups of tea and biscuits, and fed we volunteers three meals a day on virtually nothing, made up bags of goodies for those going inside--a packet of biscuits, a bottle of water, an apple, some chocolate...

I was really touched by that simple gesture, and it sparked a eureka moment. For weeks, those in the camp had been saying "Mother, one smoking please,"  to me. They mostly called me mother. They started out calling me grandmother, but I wasn't down for that. It became a bit of a standing joke at times; if they wanted a laugh they called me grandmother just to watch my reaction. Ha ha.

And often, I said no to their requests. I gave out a lot of cigarettes, but it's impossible to fund the smoking habit of hundreds of other people.

On this day though, it felt like the refugees left in the camp were condemned men. And the only thing I could offer them that they wanted was a cigarette. So I went to the kiosk near the entrance to BDFM and bought five packs of the cheapest cigarettes they had. Not anyone's favorite, but I could get so many more and there were so many people.

I stood next to the tea tent folks with their goody bags and started handing out cigarettes. I was mobbed. Clearly, it was something they really wanted.

Other volunteers started chipping in to buy more, and all day I kept replenishing my stock. At one point--the second time I was mobbed--I realized my method wasn't working well, so drawing on our strategy of teaching about queuing by saying "Line, line," as we secured places in the food line, I yelled line. Lots of laughs, but it worked. People began lining up. Some of them asked for two, but I wouldn't give more than one per person. There were just too many people. Then some of them began getting in line a second time, using little tricks like adding a jacket or pulling up a hood in the hopes I wouldn't recognize them.

I'm sure some of them got away with it, but it was all pretty high spirited.

By the time I left camp at 1:30 am, I had given away at least 1,000 cigarettes. That's 50 packs.

The next morning I gave away my last two packs. For a minute, anyway, I was able to give them something they really wanted.

Thanks you all who donated for helping me do this, including the kiosk man who gave me a discount on the last packs, and donated a lighter. There are nice people everywhere.

photo by Emily Smith

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Heartbreak on Lesvos

I was already exhausted when I heard the news. There had been a couple of days of awful weather--rain and high winds that shifted my tent under me and soaked my suitcase. And the situation with the Pakistanis was getting worse. The police started coming to the camp, wanting to deport them. When they came into the area of small tents above the fence line at Better Days for Moria, and arrested three Pakistanis, I decided it wasn't wise to camp there anymore. When I got to camp after a night away, somebody told me my suitcase was in the info tent. Except for that, my tent and everything in it was gone.

What really sucked for me was not losing the tent or the food in it, or even my eye drops and Tums...what really sucked was that many of my absolute favorite clothes were out of the suitcase drying. My grey Norma Kamali coat that I've worn nearly every day for 10 years now. My HowellDevine t-shirt, my kaleidoscope free speech zone sweatshirt that was my first ever start to finish screen-print and splattered with kaleidoscope paint, my Al Awda sweatshirt from an April 2000 protest in NYC, and other band/protest shirts. All gone. Along with all my socks and underwear and my only other pair of jeans. The halfway decent ones. Broke my heart.

But there was worse heartbreak to come.

After shift on Friday I went to the beaches for boat watch. About 10 o'clock the next morning, I headed in to town with one of the beach leaders and a brand new volunteer who had walked down to campfire from the airport close by. The lifeguard that heads the beach watch every other night gave me some pamphlets on how to greet boats. She wanted them put out at BDFM. I took the new volunteer to the bus station to buy her ticket to Molyvos, then we went to have breakfast and wait for the protest scheduled for the square and the port. I had been up over 24 hours and was feeling kind of rough.

A drenching rain--it had rained on the beach all night and I was already pretty wet, my coat soaked through--delayed the protest, so the new volunteer didn't get to take part. She had to catch her bus, but I joined in and we marched around the small labyrinthine streets of Mytilini before heading to the port. At the port, I was called over to hear a woman from Pikpa--the camp for especially vulnerable people.

She was distraught. She had just come from the mayor's office where the phone call had come in while she was there. The phone call telling the mayor that due to the EU-Turkey agreement due to start implementation the next day, all refugee camps on Lesvos were going to be cleared in the next 24 hours.

All sleepiness disappeared and I went into high gear. I joined a photographer friend and another journalist and spent two furious hours alerting people and trying to verify the information. I couldn't believe that all of it was ending, just like that.

A lot of other people didn't believe it either. It was surreal. I went to my evening shift, and we began telling people. The EU agreement was supposed to start on Sunday, but it seemed as though even those there before the agreement were to be deported. Evening shift was long, and we had drinks after because so many of we volunteers were leaving this week too, as I am in a couple of days. We never dreamed our leaving would coincide with the end of days. That's what it feels like. The end of days.

Imagine living in a tiny town of 1,000 people on less than an acre of land, and suddenly finding out that about 900 of them are being sent to prison, just for being from the wrong place.

We were all horrified. Camp that night was sober. Lots of the Pakistanis who made up the bulk of our camp recently, sat in the info tent, trying to reach loved ones on their phones. We volunteers tried to find out more information. Rumors were flying. Everybody was going to be sent to Kevalla in the north of mainland Greece. It was going to be a lockdown camp. It was an open camp. Refugees were going to receive 180 Euros a month for personal expenses. Could that be part of the EU deal? After all, these people were here before the cut-off date of March 20. Surely something would be done for them, and refugees said friends had called from Kevalla telling them that. But we also heard everybody would be deported to Turkey. That was in direct contravention of international laws on refugees and the just signed agreement. And the horrible one-for-one human trade would happen, but not as we had thought--Pakistanis for Syrians. Instead, it was going to be Syrians for Syrians, which doesn't even make any sense.

On Monday--having not slept in 45 hours--I found out that Moria had become an official detention center. UNHCR pulled out on principle, DRC was gone, all volunteers were in the process of being kicked out. I-58, a religious based volunteer group from the US who did great work were taken out of the dorms which were now detention dorms rather than the family compound and moved down to the tea tent. I don't know if they're still there, but MSF pulled out last night. So all the big NGOs are gone and Moria is a prison again. A doctor from Better Days told me they seemed to only be getting one meal a day, shoved under the bars at 3 pm. Another volunteer has reported that when asked for water cops are responding "Wait for the rain."

We still don't know for sure what's going to happen to people. Some reports say that all the Pakistanis are being handcuffed for transport. Some of our friends among the refugees have contacted us, so we have some first hand reports, but they are confusing. The ferry the Iraqi tattoo artist I wrote about was put on went to Athens instead of Kevalla. There is some speculation Kevalla was a ruse to misdirect volunteers who might show up to protest.

But from there, it seems that some were taken to a bleak looking camp at Volos where there is reportedly no running water. I saw a picture. Just tents--row after row of tents. Volos is on the mainland between Athens and the northern border. But then I heard that some of the refugees were allowed to board a bus for Athens, that the bus driver required them to pay 20 Euros for the trip and they refused, saying let the EU pay it. The story goes that the bus driver threatened to kill them and eventually dropped them off in the middle of nowhere, but since some of our friends have made their way to Athens, who knows? And apparently it wasn't straight from the ferry, but I can't quite get the story. Anyway, good to know they're safe for now.

My young traumatized friend went with the Urdu speaking doctor to be put in UNHCR protective care as an unaccompanied minor. I got to say goodbye, but yesterday I stood outside the so-called Syrian gate, the main gate to Moria camp, and waved at the small barred metal building in which he was being held. I didn't see him, though.

Tonight I didn't go to camp. The shift leader told me there are only about 10 people left. My young friend whose arm and neck were cut up by the Taliban left on the ferry for Athens tonight where a protection specialist will meet him tomorrow. I hope he will be okay.

Another friend, a Pakistani man, I ran into on a bench in Mytilini. I was pretty confused by that because the Pakistanis are particularly at risk. Yet there he was, with another Pakistani man, taking the sun by the sea. He gave me his phone number and asked me to contact a lawyer for him. I think he might have a good asylum case. I hope so. I hope he gets to use his right to apply for asylum. We're hearing conflicting reports about that too.

And now it's time for me to leave Lesvos so I don't overstay my visa. It's a particularly unsatisfactory way of leaving, but it would be pointless to stay anyway. The refugees are gone. Some 50,000 people--including the 900 or so from our camp--have been disappeared.

At least BDFM did our own registration in these last days. We'll be able to say they WERE here. Here are their pictures, their names. They do exist. Where are they?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Trauma Victim--One of Many

I spent much of last night with a trauma victim. He's a young man from near Islamabad, the capitol of Pakistan--only 17. I got involved with him when he cut his hand. This is a fuller story than the one I briefly outlined in the post The Pakistanis.

I was in the info tent when he came in about a week ago with blood all over his palm and somebody took him to the doctor at the other end of the camp. Not long after, someone from the health tent came down to info asking if we had seen him and saying he had left. I was a little surprised but didn't really know the situation and didn't think much more about it till I saw him at the campfire that evening.

His hand was wrapped in an a torn up white t-shirt which he had also fashioned into a sling. I asked him about the doctor since it was obvious no doctor had done the bandaging, and that was when he told me that when he was asked his name, he was afraid of the police. Since his English is very limited, and my Urdu virtually non-existent (he taught me a few words last night) this was communicated without much context other than what I knew of the political situation.

Knowing there was an Urdu speaking doctor around, I went to tell her the situation She talked to him and between us we convinced him--I with a cigarette bribe (he had asked and I had demurred, saying I'd give him one if he went to the doctor). The doctor, by the way, is awesome. She cleaned and wrapped the wound, and somehow managed to convince him to accompany her inside Moria registration camp so MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) so he could get a tetanus shot. He had a deep wound from a razor blade. He said he fell on it.

I saw him the next day and he showed me his medical papers. MSF had also given him an Hep-B shot. Then I didn't see him again for a couple of days, but yesterday there he was--his bandage soiled and bloody. I told him he had to go back to the doctor to have it cleaned and rebandaged. We joked about no police at the doctor. I finally convinced him and he asked me to go with him, so I did.

That evening I attended the second in a series of three psychological first aid mini training courses offered by a catastrophe specialist psychiatrist. At some point during the meeting, she referenced a trauma case she had talked to that afternoon--a Pakistani minor who might be cutting himself. I instantly thought of the young man with the razor wound, and indeed, that was the young man in question.

I saw him again after the meeting and he conveyed to me that he wanted me to go sit with him. He took me to the casbah--the nickname of the comfortable quiet room in the medical tent where we had had our meeting, and we sat awhile. At times he was agitated. He opened the blanket sealing off the room from the rest of the medical tent. He wanted to know what was going on, and he wanted the Urdu speaking doctor to come talk to him. He taught me a few words of Urdu, including one phrase he was adamant I learn. When he was ready to leave, I went outside with him and repeated the phrase to the Urdu speaking doctor. She was surprised and asked if she was rude. Apparently he had taught me to say someone was very rude. The doctor asked me to stay with him. We then went to the info tent where he pointed to a volunteer and repeated that phrase. The volunteer in question is actually very nice, but communication is difficult and combined with frequently limited resources, misunderstandings are frequent. His impression was that the volunteer in question was very rude, though I doubt if  that was really the case in this instance.

He then took a guitar from another volunteer with a gesture asking if he could play, and began to strum. He didn't know how to play guitar, and it was out of tune, but it didn't matter. He was obviously soothed by the music he was making. A group of boisterous Pakistanis entered the tent then, and in moments he asked me to follow him outside. He took the guitar with him and we sat down nearby where he continued to play around on the guitar. Then the same group followed us outside and showing some agitation, he again asked me to walk with him. He seems to be torn between wanting to talk to the other refugees who share his language and wanting to avoid them. Playing on the guitar along the way we went again to the medical tent, to the casbah room. We sat there--him playing--for a long time. The psychiatrist sang a beautiful old folk song, which he enjoyed, but when she started playing the spoons he gestured his displeasure and said calm--an English word he seemed to understand. Then another worker in the tent--a medical student--sang to him while filling small bags with gummi-vitamins to hand out to kids. Finally another Urdu speaking doctor who would be on the night shift joined us and they talked a little, translating for me sometimes. After a while, we took the guitar back to the info tent where we hung out a minute. Then he told me I should go to sleep and he disappeared.

A few minutes later I walked down to the medical tent to see if I could ask about his story since he had latched onto me. There he was. They filled me in briefly, but it wasn't much more than I knew. Apparently, he hasn't really shared his story.

Throughout the course of the evening I sat with him, the second Urdu speaking doctor, and another young doctor. I learned he has four brothers and a sister; I got him some clean clothes and dry shoes that fit. They made a bed for him in the medical tent out of two exam cots because he said he was afraid he'd fall off. I brought blankets and a sleeping bag from storage. At one point we inquired about a bleeding cut on his knuckle of the same hand whose palm was cut. As the doctor cleaned and bandaged it he said that he had cut it at the same time he cut his palm and that sometimes it opened up and bled. It was a much smaller cut, but I don't recall seeing it before. And it's a little hard to believe that he cut his hand on both sides by falling on a razor blade. The bleeding started while he was out of our sight, changing into his clean clothes.

I went to bed around three, though I carried a radio with me in case they wanted me--it was a long day. How does an untrained volunteer help a young man who doesn't speak her language? I wish I knew.


Some updates to previous posts:

On Truth and Consequences--the post more people have read by far. Starfish, the organization that covered up the rape, has been banned from working inside Moria and all former Starfish volunteers banned as well. Starfish is continuing  to cover up the situation, spreading the story that their removal from Moria was the result of a normal rotation of NGOs by the Greek government. The victim is out of the country, considering her options and, last I heard, seeking therapy.

On The First Imad--I since learned that for refugees who have lost their money, or claimed to do so, the standard operating procedure is to wait three days and see what the people in question do. The logic behind that is that those who have resources will utilize them to move on, and those that truly don't will still be stuck. If they really are stuck, financial assistance will be offered through one of the groups that offer that kind of aid. Makes a certain amount of sense to me.

On The Second Imad--I was such a newbie then I didn't know who or what to ask. Turns out the DRC do have tents available that they hand out when necessary, or I could have tried to put them elsewhere, or I could have sent them to Better Days. The learning curve is steep here. I hate to think how many of us make mistakes out of ignorance. It's legion.

On The Pakistanis--I've since had explained to me that many of the Pakistanis really are economic migrants from the Punjab region. I'm not convinced, however, that their economic woes are not war related. And they're not all from Punjab as I'll write in my next post.

On An Iraqi Story--the young man in this story has become quite a star, being interviewed in a number of media outlets. He often claims in these stories that he is from Iran because, as he explained to me, where he wants to go (Norway if I recall correctly) Iranians are treated better than Iraqis. I tell him he may be hurting his chances of moving on, but it highlights the issue of refugees telling the interviewers (both media and government) what they think the interviewers want to hear. They are afraid. One of the most common scenarios with making up stories for the government interviewers is that of unaccompanied minors saying they are older because they think that will help them more. In fact the opposite is true. Anyway, for more about Ramiar--the young man in An Iraqi Story--check out this BBC video of him.

On Better Days Camping--I didn't join I Am You because I found out no former Starfish volunteers are allowed to work inside Moria, so have been at Better Days for the past couple of weeks. Since I live there, I mostly work on projects or make myself useful wherever and whenever needed instead of signing up for specific shifts. Camping is going ok. I definitely get a better understanding of the refugee experience--worrying about rain and wind, no shower available, no toilet paper in the port-a-potties (though I carry a roll with me most of the time), frustrating, terrible internet, the unending noise of living in a tent in close quarters with many others in the same situation, the almost constant chaos of a refugee camp...and some things that are more specific to my situation: staying up as late as I can so that I don't have to get up in the middle of the night to walk to the toilets, being able to wash my clothes in the taps as they do, but being reluctant to hang my underwear to dry in a camp mostly full of single men... but many thanks to a fellow volunteer who washed my clothes and let me use her shower. you rock!

Monday, March 7, 2016

On the Beach--My First Boat Arrival

This is a hard post to write. I'm not sure I can adequately describe what it's like being on the beaches watching for boats, but I'll try. After doing it the first time, I tell every volunteer who hasn't experienced it that they really should.

We left Better Days in the wee hours of the morning and drove out to the campfire on the beach. The lifeguard in charge gave us a briefing about what we should look for and what we should do in case of a boat landing and we began scanning the sea for the tiny glimmer of a regularly blinking light.  As a newbie, I kept seeing lights blinking on the Turkish shore and thinking they were signals, but when I finally saw one, there's no mistaking it. Even though it may start as a faint flicker far away, it blinks  regularly. Some refugee on a tiny rubber boat out in all that black sea--indistinguishable from the black sky sometimes--is huddled together with maybe 50 others in a low riding boat, shining his little flashlight in a signal pattern, looking for an answering flash from us on shore.

A little after 3 am we saw the first one. One of the experienced lifeguards estimated arrival in about 10 minutes, based on the distance. But ten minutes came and went and the boat didn't seem any closer. The tension on shore mounted. We kept flashing. The boat didn't seem to come any closer. Another 10 minutes crawled by, and another. The refugees were clearly in trouble. Finally, around 4 am the boat was close enough to see, a dim grey shape, low on the water and filled with black silhouettes--the refugees.

Right now, writing this in a cafe in the port of Mytiline, I'm shaking again remembering, reliving, the fear we all felt for them.

As they approached shore six professional lifeguards in wetsuits waded out and, three to a side, hauled the heavy boat up onto the beach. After all the fear and tension of watching their approach, after all the fear and tension of  their dangerous sea crossing, they had reached land and there was a moment of universal joy and celebration like I've never seen before. Every single person there shared this moment of such joy. It was the best high ever. But then we went to work. We quickly formed a corridor to lead the refugees off the front of the boat--going off the side is dangerous--and helped them out onto land and up to the blankets we had spread as they neared. We helped them sit down, figured out those who needed special assistance, passed out water, helped remove life-jackets and wet shoes, helped them put on dry socks and wrapped their feet in squares of emergency blankets. Other emergency blankets we wrapped around them inside their wet coats. Hypothermia is a real issue. The water and air are cold.

Within minutes, the UNHCR bus, called when arrival was imminent, drove up and we ushered the refugees on board. The bus left and we cleaned up the beach, and went back to watching for the next boat. But during clean up, when looking at the boat I noticed the lone paddle left behind in the boat. We knew the engine had quit, but it was only then I realized they only had one paddle to propel them across miles of the Aegean Sea. More horrifying was when I noticed the cheap toy pumps next to the partially deflated boat and realized that the refugees had been pumping all the way across to keep their overloaded boat afloat on the water. Then a lifeguard showed me the life-jackets. They were all fake, filled with a substance that would actually soak up water and ensure  their drowning if they tried to rely on them.

The sheer horror and unmitigated joy of that night will live with me the rest of my life.

these are pictures from my first experience--the deflated boat, the paddle, the pumps, the fake lifejackets. sorry for the quality--i phone in the dark

the following pictures are from a later boat arrival, in sequence


There are so many long term residents at Better Days for Moria, and even though (unlike the main registration camp) there is community space--a children's play area, benches around the fire barrel's where we all gather to get warm at night...--people are bored. The few guitars that live in the camp seem to all have broken strings, the only drum has a broken head (it was a cheap plastic head), the balls are worn out in a matter of days. Toys are scarce.

But volunteers are getting creative.

There are two pizza ovens in the upper part of the camp, made out of clay mixed from the mud that we walk on and a pile of sand that somebody dumped. Here, most evenings, vegan pizzas are cooked in the traditional wood burning clay ovens and distributed throughout the camp. You can usually find refugees eagerly awaiting the fresh hot pizza, a real treat, though the daily food the Skipchen makes for refugee meals is delicious.

Another group, who don't work exclusively at Better Days, come and hold workshops on how to make their recycled rubber dinghy back packs. You can check out a video here.  The Dutch designers provide tools and materials and the refugees get to make their own water resistant, lightweight, and stylish backpacks. Since backpacks are not plentiful in the distribution tent, this project not only gives the refugees something to do for an hour, but leaves them with a much needed backpack. The only drawback is that a team of 2-3 working on a pack only leaves one in possession. However, plans are afoot to scale up the operation and I've never seen a refugee who worked on a pack begrudge it going to someone else.

There are several people who are offering English lessons. Someone--I'm not sure who--thoughtfully provided a big bag full of small notebooks, and yesterday somebody brought two boxes of pens. Volunteers and refugees sit in small groups, or one on one, anywhere they find a quiet space (something at a premium in a small over-crowded camp never meant to be a long term housing community) and work on English--a valuable skill no matter where the refugee ends up.

Two young women who worked on shoe cleaning (washing and drying the wet shoes refugees arrive in to recycle them and replenish our stores of dry shoes to distribute) during their volunteer time built a shoe shine stand for the camp which now stands below the tents and near the distribution area, offering supplies and a place for refugees to clean and polish their own shoes. It's a popular place. People are into having clean, shined shoes.

My own projects are still in nascent stages. After a few sleepless nights (boat duty and other things keeping me awake) I slept well last night and am refreshed, but had to come into town today in order to access the internet and get these posts up. I'll get back to projects tomorrow.) The first one I started involved making rag dolls for the children to keep. So many of them are traumatized, I thought something cuddly of their very own would be nice. The first day I set up, I had a number of people working with me--girls and boys, men and women, cutting the patterns, sewing the edges, stuffing the toys, and finally drawing on faces. But the space where we worked is not really optimal, and many of the women don't really hang out in the communal spaces much. I've decided I need to go up and sit among the tents, with "kits" ready--the cut out pieces, a needle, and thread and stuffing ready to go. Then they can work at their own leisure to make the dolls.

My other project is really more my kind of thing. Sitting with a group of Iranian men, it suddenly occurred to me that a backgammon board should be easy enough to make, and culturally, backgammon is huge. So we gathered some cardboard and started to work. We managed one board but cutting cardboard with a razor knife is a pain, and making the dice was a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, we now have a functional backgammon board. Since it took us all afternoon to produce one board though, and it's not easily transported, I thought about the project some more. The Dutch artists' backpacks inspired me though, and from now on the boards will be made out of recycled life-jackets. That way they can be rolled up and stored and carried in a small bag we will sew for each. We will make the pieces out of two or three layers of life-jacket vinyl (there are lots of colors available) and draw on the points as we did on the cardboard one. I cheated on the dice though. I went to town and bought some. Another volunteer who bought some playing card sets to distribute gave me the dice that were included in them, so I now have enough supplies for about 10-15 backgammon boards. Cool. I won the first game I played with an Afghan refugee. He seemed surprised. Ha ha. Little did he know he was taking on a champ.

Finally, on the bus in to town today, I decided we need to make some simple two piece wooden jigsaw puzzles for the little ones. Maybe with numbers and pictures--for example an apple on one side and the number 1 on the other, two balls and the number 2, etc.  Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section, and as always, thanks for reading.

the Pakistanis

About a week ago I guess, a lot of Pakistanis started showing up at Better Days for Moria, aka Afghan Hill and The Olive Grove, where I am now living and working. We had already had some show up, but the first incident I knew of when they started coming in large numbers involved one of my nights on the beach, watching and waiting for boats.

There was a young woman--a New Yorker--whose last night she chose to spend on the beach. Though I stayed behind to help at the main campfire site where we watch, many volunteers headed south to several confirmed boat sightings. Along the way, the teams stumbled on a boat that had somehow escaped our watch and landed on their own. A rubber dinghy of 69 Pakistanis had just arrived. Maybe because they were all young men, with the strength implied in both men and youth, they had gotten onto the shore by themselves without mishap. None of them were wearing shoes.

They were shoeless, because apparently the smugglers--the human traffickers operating out of Turkey who arrange the boats--are now selling package deals. They promise not just the boat trip but new shoes, clothes, and who knows what else on arrival for the exorbitant prices they charge ranging from 500 to 2,300 euros per person from personal reports I have heard.

Anyway, from the chaos of trying to reach multiple boats arriving at once, somehow the young New Yorker got left alone to help the Pakistani men. She had no supplies--blankets, water, dry socks (much less shoes!) and no way to call for the UNHCR bus that would take them to Moria. At first, they were happy at having made it safely, but soon--when they realized there were no new shoes, no water, no bus anytime soon--they got angry and began burning things. Fortunately, it didn't get too out of hand before help arrived and they were all transported to Moria. The young New Yorker was then driven (not far) to the airport and embarked for the US and home, her last moments on Lesvos being memorable indeed.

However, their problems were just starting. In their infinite wisdom the powers that be have declared that Pakistan isn't a war zone because there are safe places in the country those in danger (from US drone bombings among other perils) can internally immigrate to. Ha! Though it seems they should know better, apparently the powers that be have absolutely zero concept of the numerous drone out-of-target bombings or the complexities of tribe and clan that may make one "safe" area unsafe for people fleeing other unsafe regions. Moreover, anybody who lives there or has been there recently, or even read the news closely, knows there is not really any place in Pakistan that can properly be considered safe. But since Pakistan is not deemed a war zone, the EU won't accept them. To the EU they are simply economic migrants who therefore don't qualify for asylum.

For the past week, as more and more Pakistanis arrive the situation has gotten more and more tense. The least of it was the scabies. There have always been a few cases here and there at Moria, but inside the main camp it is easier to contain. At Better Days, coping with the cases was really difficult. All the Pakistanis had to go back to the main camp to be treated and quarantined until danger of spreading the parasites was over, and the amazing Better Days tent crew worked like mad to clean and disinfect all the tents, dispose of the clothes and blankets and shoes. Then, when the Pakistanis arrived back, we had to distribute new clothes and shoes and blankets all over again. Clothes we had, blankets were a bit of a problem because we don't get allotted the huge piles of UNHCR blankets, and washing blankets with Dirty Girls is expensive, but the shoes! We never have enough shoes in the most needed sizes, and here we were having to give them out to the same people again, one or two days later.

Because the Pakistanis don't want to stay inside the main Moria registration camp. I can't say as I blame them. There have been lots of stories of Pakistanis who have been told by the police to come register and never seen again. Day before yesterday a Pakistani was telling some Better Days people that 40 of his group had been taken the day before and nothing heard from them since. There have been many meetings regarding the situation and the best answer that has been decided is to deport all the Pakistanis back to Turkey. The EU is paying Turkey to take them in, though what will happen inside Turkey is anybody's guess. However, it's a slightly better answer than it was when first discussed. The original plan was to deport them all back to Pakistan. For those who have had their passports seized (yes, it happens, too much) they would be issued temporary  travel documents and deported to Pakistan, questioned by the FIA--the Pakistani equivalent of the FBI) and finally released. Those still in possession of their papers would simply be deported to Pakistan where they would be questioned by the FIA and finally released. Not much difference. More worrisome than missing papers, someone working on human rights in Pakistan expressed concern at just exactly what form the questioning might take.

So deportation to Turkey, although hardly ideal, is still probably a better option for the Pakistanis stuck in Lesvos. But it's heartbreaking. Unlike most refugees, most of the Pakistanis had to stop often along the way to work for slave wages in factories to earn enough for the next stage of their journey. Hope kept them going. Now they have little hope and much fear.

One young man cut his hand with a razor knife yesterday. Someone escorted him to the doctor, but when they asked for his name he bolted. I had seen him with blood all over his hand and when I saw him at the fire last night with an old white t-shirt wrapped around his hand, I asked what happened. He told me doctor, police. He equated giving his name with being arrested and summarily deported back to Pakistan. He opted to wrap his hand himself rather than risk yielding his name to those in power. That's so sad. With the help of a cigarette bribe and an Urdu speaking doctor, he finally had his wound cleaned and properly bandaged, and a much needed tetanus shot.

I'm happy to say he was not deported. Yet.