Changes are taking place at SCM again as we are constantly striving to be where we are needed and help as many refugees as we can. For the last year, we have been in the northern part of Greece near Thessaloniki at the camps of Frakapour and Karamalis. When we started there, the camps had about 1100 – 1200 people between the two. Now they are down to about 100 people in each camp.
The Greek government has moved the refugees out of the camps to hotels and apartments that the UNHCR is renting for them to get them out of the cold. Each day the government comes to the camps and picks a number of families to move. One of our team members has gone to look at the facilities and they say they are clean and warm, very different from what they had at the camps. When we talked to the hotel and the apartment managers, they told us that the leases were for two months. We have no idea what will happen when the leases expire.
SCM has decided, with the dwindling numbers of people in the camps in northern Greece and increasing numbers on Lesbos again, that we are moving our operation back to the island of Lesbos and the camp at Morea. Currently that camp is housing 5,000 refugees with more arriving on the beaches from Turkey every day. Because of our good relationship with the government on Lesbos, the mayor there has asked us to set up a medical clinic for the growing population of refugees at the camp. We have reached an agreement with the mayor that, in exchange for the use of a warehouse building for the clinic and storage of our supplies, we will provide medical services to the refugees and anyone on the island that needs our help.
We expect that by mid-February most of the refugees will have moved from Frakapour and Karamanlis. We will be moving all of our supplies to Lesbos and have the clinic set up shortly thereafter. Jamal Sawalha, who was the SCM team lead before will be returning from Jordan to lead this operation. We will be in need of medical and humanitarian volunteers to staff the clinic and provide other services at Morea and in the area there. Medical volunteers who can bring equipment and supplies will be in particular need (more details on needs will be coming soon), as well as Arabic, Urdu, Pashtu and Kurdish speakers. Very few organizations are able to bring in as many volunteers with the needed language skills as SCM is, and we are extremely grateful to all of our supporters who can do this. Stay tuned for more details on our upcoming missions.
Right now, we need your help to raise money to pay for the clinic set up, establishing schools in the camp, and housing for those who are vulnerable on the island of Lesbos. This would include pregnant women and their families so they have a clean and warm place to give birth and tend to the new baby, those with acute medical conditions who don’t need to be in the hospital but cannot withstand living in a tent in the wet and cold, elderly and the very young who are most susceptible to the adverse conditions, and so on. We need to get them out of the tents and into decent living conditions as quickly as possible.
The reality is that they are not going to be moving from Greece any time soon, with all the available pathways to Europe now closed, and with the suspension of the refugee resettlement program in the US, we must help them prepare to stay in Greece indefinitely. To add to Greece’s burden, Germany may be sending as many as 60,000 refugees back to Greece. The UNHCR is stretched thin and is lacking in resources, and with the US appearing to withdraw support from the refugee program, individuals and other NGOs like SCM must help more than ever.
The people of Lesbos have been very hospitable and stepped up to help at the very beginning of the refugee crisis, but their island can only take on so much. Their economy is based on tourism and agriculture, and it has been devastated by the refugee crisis. We hope to help alleviate some of their burden in helping to provide these services. The UNHCR will still be doing interviews and processing people to be resettled in other countries, but this is a long, slow process that will still take up to two years to complete.
We are asking you to dig deep and help us raise a total of $250,000 – that is our ultimate goal to provide the long-term services we have outlined for the refugees on Lesbos. You can help by donating and doing a fundraiser through Crowdrise for SCM. Just click this link, and set up your own fundraising page, share it with all your friends and family.
Please help us fully fund our operations on Lesbos so we can hit the ground running. We need to be up and providing services within a month, so the need is immediate.
Please join our fundraiser now!