Summary of the Refugee Support Initiative in Kastellorizo by the “Shanti” donor group and their friends around the world

Report dated December 3rd, 2015

Background and General Information

We owe a big thank you to our donors! As of November 30th, we had received 59 donations for a total sum of just over 47 thousand Euros. This has made it possible to provide food, shoes, dry clothing, medicines and shelter in twelve local B&B establishments for a total of 1732 refugee-days (to an estimated 500 migrants, since most stay on the island several days until they are able to take a ferry to Athens staging centres), as well as basic safety, search and rescue equipment and vessel maintenance to the Coast Guard and Police, who have no material funds available to face the emergency and are saving lives every day.

Our total accrued expenses over this first two months of activity have run at just under forty thousand Euros, for an average expense per refugee-day of 22 Euros. This is quite a high number that reflects the emergency nature of our actions and the lack of an institutional humanitarian aid presence on the island, as well as an initial inability to properly organize/negotiate supplies and services. In the beginning, this aid was administered almost entirely by Monika and Damien, who have been simply overwhelmed by the flow of refugees: arrivals have increased since September and, as best we can tell (the Police is not allowed to release statistics) have been running at 15-30 per day. We estimate September and October arrivals on the island at 500 each month and project the November number to climb to around 900. It will be important to note that in the winter months, the ferries are quite unreliable, so we should expect to see significant peaks in the average numbers of people staying on the island on any given day, awaiting their departure. A couple of weeks ago, we heard there were 800 sleeping rough at one time and waiting for a ferry to Rhodes or the mainland.

The lack of any organized humanitarian assistance on the island prompted us, in early October, to get in touch with UNHCR’s Greek offices - the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which happen to be headed by an Italian Director and veteran, Alessandra Morelli. With help from Alessandra and her valiant staff and with generous support from the TPG Special Situations Partners, we organized a week-long fact-finding expedition by my terrific former Executive Assistant in London, Iphigenia Metheniti (who is Greek) and her wonderful volunteer friend Mimika Miliadou from Athens, who were joined by selfless UNHCR field officer Ariadne Spanaki. This visit took place during the week of October 25th. Subsequently, Mimika and Ariadne returned to the island last week. These inspections have resulted in the considerations and plans explained below.

Situation on the island and needs

Kastellorizo is beautiful, but tiny and isolated. Were it not for its extreme closeness to the Turkish mainland, where over 2 million Syrian refugees are hosted by the Turkish authorities, it would not be a natural destination for these migration flows. Given the size of the island and its complete reliance on tourism for the economic survival of its residents, there is also an understandable fear by the local inhabitants to call in major international organisations, or see large, organised refugee camps established, lest massive inflows of migrants irremediably damage tourist flows next Spring and Summer.

At the same time, the situation is untenable, since there have already been several deaths around the island and conditions for survival are inevitably going to worsen considerably during Winter. The very co-operative Deputy Mayor, Michalis Achladiotis, is painfully aware of the need to reconcile the conflicting pressures of making some sort of organized help for refugees possible, on the one hand, while not providing structures that would attract much larger inflows, on the other, which in turn could fatally jeopardise the next tourist season(s). After extended discussions with him, with the extraordinarily brave and hard- working island Doctor, Iannis Rantos, with the local Chiefs of Coast Guard, Customs, Police and Army garrison, the Municipality and the UNHCR have been debating among themselves the relative merits of either dedicating a closed, town hall, or a to-be-tented football field, to establish a temporary refugee facility. Today, we know that the Municipality is considering making available two houses and the town hall until April, when a tented camp would become a feasible option, due to the improving weather. We expect a final decision on this vital matter to be made at a Town Council on December 11th.

Proposed field action plan for winter 2015/2016

In both town hall and tented camp, the UNHCR would bring in some technical experts and matériel to set up the facilities (tents, cots, etc.) but would not be in a position to fund the management and supply of these facilities, although they would provide advice and indirect support. This is where our charitable initiative, would take responsibility. We will count on the Municipality to provide (non-potable) water and electricity.

Aside from helping set up the temporary and fairly unsophisticated refugee shelter, including minimum indispensable hygiene facilities and organizing and administering the camp on a daily basis, we would also like to provide the Coast Guard, Police and Surgery areas, where dozens of refugees spend several hours at night or during the day waiting to be processed, with some basic amenities so that old people and babies can be seated, protected from the elements and have potable water available to them. We would also like to continue to provide them with search and rescue, as well as safety, matériel, as required.

We believe that, with help from the UNHCR and from local volunteers, including some institutional ones that wish to remain anonymous, we should be able to provide a morning high-energy meal, a hot afternoon meal and 1.5 liters of potable water, for a total expenditure of about 2 Euros per person per day.

In addition, Monika and Damien have volunteered to continue to run a parallel clothes collection and distribution programme on the island, to supply refugees with basic dry clothing needs and winter apparel, especially in consideration of the fact that many of them will be trekking northward through very cold areas of the Balkans after they will have left the island.

To run the emergency programme described above on Kastellorizo, from November 1st until May 1st, we would like to be able to raise an additional 120 thousand Euros to fund activities for six months. This sum would also cover certain urgent immediate purchases, including:


1 Pharmaceutical supplies €4,000

200 Mats €1,800

10 Inflatable mattresses and cots €400

6 Water coolers €1,000

1 Toilet and shower installations €5,000

1 Morgue Freezer €4,000

4 Coast Guard head-lamps €600

1 Maintenance €900

6 Coast Guard Flotation Devices €1,200

4 Coast Guard winter S&R suits €3,500

3 Water purifying devices €3,000

40 Air heaters €800

6000 Arabic instruction notices €600

60 Chairs and wheelchairs €700

1 Other/unplanned €1,500

TOTAL € 29,000

The fund-raising objective of €120,000 would also cover 26 weeks of current expenses at 3,500 Euros per week, comprising the following:


600 Individual daily food rations €1,200

1400 Litres of water in Water Cooler Vats €700

M Pharmaceutical supplies €200

1 Services of a local cleaner 4hrs/day €100

3 Cost of three volunteers €700

1 Cleaning chemicals and disinfectants €100

1 Monthly disinfection €250

1 Other/Unexpected €250

TOTAL € 3,500

This organization, providing a more adequate assistance than we have been able to supply to-date, should also enable us to reduce unit costs considerably, from a range of 18-22 Euros per assisted refugee per day to about 5 Euros.

A request for your continued support

Horrendous events during recent weeks in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, France, and the USA are bound to have dampened many people’s willingness to assist predominantly muslim refugees. Yet, we must stay lucid and not fall into the trap that barbaric terrorists have set for us: they are eager to foment racial and religious prejudice in the West against other, almost universally peaceful, muslims, so that religious wars, of the kind we are fortunate not to have seen for centuries, will return. We must always remember that the Syrian refugees we are predominantly helping in Kastellorizo, whether christian or muslim, are escaping the destruction wrought by precisely the same criminal psychopaths and deserve our help today, just as they did a month ago.

We depend on your generosity to be able to underwrite this programme for the Winter, during which we expect refugee flows to Kastellorizo to continue and conditions to worsen. Your donations will be applied entirely and directly to providing essential aid locally, in line with our plans described above. We bear no administrative, legal or fund-raising costs for the time being. Any surplus funds will be donated to the UNHCR general fund or to reputable humanitarian organisations of our choice operating in the Dodecanese, if unused on the Island.

Please give generously, in one or more of the following ways:

1.            By transferring money to the Kastellorizo-dedicated account we have set up at Barclays Bank in Monaco (please e-mail me and we will send you the transfer instructions and IBAN)

2.            By sending warm clothing and shoes, in good condition, to Monika Bruggebors and her husband Damien on Kastellorizo, at the following address:

Diamandis Mavrothalassitis,

Olive Garden restaurant

Kastellorizo, 85111 Greece

We will continue to write occasional letters to update you on our progress and on the situation prevailing on the island and will maintain as detailed as possible accounts for your inspection if you wish to review them.

All of us who have met the Syrian refugees face-to-face and spoken to them are thoroughly convinced that this epochal migration is inevitable and that, in the words of a donor friend: our generation will be judged on how we respond to this crisis”. We believe that we have an obligation to provide compassionate treatment to these derelict people who have lost absolutely everything, including frequently their limbs and often the lives of their dear ones, as they seek an opportunity for survival in Europe.

With many, sincere thanks,

From Vincenzo, writing also on behalf of Marina, Paola, Ignazia, Helène, Bernard, Iphigenia, Mimika and the Greek staff at UNHCR in Athens and on the Eastern Aegean islands who are providing us with essential encouragement and support.