We were delighted to welcome Charles Storer, CEO of Hope and Aid Direct, to our Zoom meeting on September 11th.
Charles first explained some of the recent activity of this charity who convoy essential aid out from the UK to refugee camps in the Greek islands (and sometimes elsewhere). The migrants in the main camps on Lesvos total over 16,000; others are in Chios (4,600) Samos (5700) and Kos (2250).
The camps are all excessively overcrowded and have desperate living conditions, with no running water, dangerously bad sanitation, inadequate food and are often under attack from local thugs and gangs.
Hope and Aid Direct collect essential supplies in the UK (York Rotary are currently collecting blankets, towels and sleeping bags) and transport them across Europe to Greece. The supply line is essential to support the ever-increasing demand from more refuges who come mostly from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Iraq, and include many children (around 30%)
As if this was not a difficult enough task already, 2020 has seen the impact of COVID severely restricting both the ability to travel overland and the ability of volunteers to get entry into the camps, which are currently in full lockdown.
The most recent shipment was sent to the Moria camp on Lesvos. Just last week, this camp suffered an extensive and tragic fire which has virtually destroyed the living quarters and personal belongings of most of the migrants, who are now having to live on the roadside, and are getting very little support from local police or agencies. It is a dire situation which Hope and Aid are trying to respond to through two shipments (going by sea) to local agencies.
We were shocked by the tragic stories related by Charles and we wish him and their team (which includes our own Diane Rowarth as a regular volunteer) success in their most difficult endeavours.