An Update of Our Efforts' Progress from Correspondence with our Volunteers

16.06.2016 - a well deserved and awaited update

We apologize for our silence and lack of updates on our website since ealry April. The realisty is, that since the Turkey-EU deal was put in place at the end of March, the flow of refugees arriving on Kastellorizo has dramatically decreased and even stopped since early April. Since 04/04/2016 when the final 47 refugees arrived on Kastellorizo, we have had no new arrivals. Of the final 47 refugees who arrived, 30 of them were transferred on 26/04 to a hot-spot in Rhodes. The remaining 11 refugees were transferred on 2nd of May after approximately 1 month stay on Kastellorizo. Since their departure, there has been no more need for the common meal.

Shanti has thus halted all first-aid arrival to the refugees and instead decided to concetrate its efforts and final funds on helping the island rebuild and clean up in time for the summer season. Since April we have achieved the following things:
 
02/05 Distribution of common meal has stopped

30/05 Public Toilets cleaning service has stopped
 
End of April, Painting & Disinfection of the Hall:
After receiving the Municipality's approval, we proceeded to the painting (indoors and outdoors, approx. 400m2) and disinfection of the Hall where the refugees had been hosted these past months.
 
20/05/2016 Air Conditioning for Police Station:
It was brought to our attention that the police officers have been working in conditions of about 45C during the summer months, as the air conditioning units at the police station and at the harbor terminal (container), were not operational.  Given their contribution to the situation, Shanti proceeded with the replacement of the old and damaged A/C with 2 new units:

  • 1x in the anteroom (20cm2) where the registration of the refugees was taking place
  • 1x in the Police Container (30cm2) at the seafront (in the port) used by the Police for passport control
  • 2 x Flood lights for the Police Station received on 28/03

Ongoing until mid-June, general cleaning of the island:
As you may imagine, the cleanliness of the island had suffered greatly over the past months, especially, since the municipality did not receive additional funds to employ a cleaner during the winter months.  Shanti undertook the general clean-up of the island and the surrounding uninhabited islands. This project is ongoing and is expected to finish by 15th June 2016.

Below is a detailed breakdown of what is being done:
First Phase -

  1. Collection of garbage, bags, life jackets, boats etc. from Police Station to the Open Fish Market and finally to the Coast Guard
  2. Whitewash along the promenade(from Police Station to the Open Fish Market, inside the Market, and the Coast Guard)

Second Phase -

  1. Collection of life jackets, plastic bottles, damaged plastic boats, clothes and others from the Coast Guard to DEI district and from the district “Horafia” (where the Hall is located) to the Airport
  2. Collection of life jackets, damaged plastic boats etc from the districts Ai Yiannis, Ai Stefanos, and from the small island Ai Giorgis

Provisions left over:
There have been a few provisions left over from our activities on the island.  Food items and perishables have been distributed to locals in need of them. A quantity of food items and bottled water together with items that were entrusted to us by MSF have been officially handed over to the municipality, should the need arise for them to be used again. Ms. Ariadni UNHCR was informed of this action.

Departure of our volunteers from the island on 28/05:
After 5 months’ stay on the island, close relationships have been established with the locals based on confidence and understanding but also on friendship. The Mayor, the personnel of all authorities, the collaborators (Niotis, Despina, Jonathan) and other locals expressed their gratitude for our efficient support and could hardly believe that Shanti is indeed winding down its activities.
 
One of Shanti’s most important achievement is the fact that the island now has a good idea of the processes they need to re-activate, should the flow of refugees resume for any reason.
 
We would like to extend a wholehearted THANK YOU to all our donors, whose generous contributions made all of this possible.
 
One of Shanti’s most important achievement is the fact that the island now has a good idea of the processes they need to re-activate, should the flow of refugees resume for any reason. See below for some pictures of our cleaning progress and painting of the hall.

 

04.04.2016 - Arrivals and the effect of the eu-turkey deal

As we are still trying to understand the effects of the EU-Turkey deal in practice, on April 2nd we report that 29 new people have arrived on Kastellorizo. Further, on April 4th, we had 18 arrivals, mostly adults. Our schedule and routine continues to function properly: breakfast, lunch, hygiene kits delivery and first aid clothing. Given the uncertainty of the situation, our Representatives and reps from the UNHCR spend much time with the refugees to reassure them and explain to them as much as they can about the logistics and legalities of their journey through Europe.

Given our observations and experience over the past week, it may well be that the flows of refugees will not halt completely but may be slowed down for now.

To find out more about the EU-Turkey in detail please follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/welcome-to-europe/greece-turkey-deal/1071828059526632

31.03.2016 - refugees transferred to hostpots

Today, 92 of the 102 refugees left on the island were transferred through the coast guard to the hotspot in Leros, essentially a detention center.

Only ten people are left and they will leave tomorrow with the ferry to pursue their journey. Contrary to the 92 people who were transferred to the hotspot today, the remaining 10 were granted relief papers from the police last week since they are families with small babies. They hadn’t left until now as they were waiting to receive money to cover the cost of their trip.

28.03.2016 - HALL REOPENS

Following UNHCR’s obbligation to stop subsidising the cost of hotel rooms to host the 109 refugees on the island, the refugees risked sleeping outside as the munipality hall remained closed.

Yet, after receiving the support from the Police, Shanti and the UNHCR, today the Mayor agreed to reopen the hall! The refugees were able to enter the hall and we have restarted to provide food and water indoors. We must remember that their current psychological status remains very difficult, they have all been on the island for more than a week and they are certainly stressed about their situation.

27.03.2016 - REFUGEES RISK SLEEPING OUTSIDE

The closure of the municipality hall was causing to be even more problematic following the EU-Turkey Agreement which meant that refugees arriving on Kastellorizo are no longer able to move forwards to Rhodes and Athens. As a result, they are now ‘stuck’ on Kastllorizo without the hall at their disposal. UNHCR were until tomorrow, supporting the refugees by subsiding the cost of hotel rooms for them. However, this is no longer sustainable and as of tomorrow, the UNHCR has told the refugees that they will have to leave their hotel rooms. We have an update from Martina below which accounts for this and offers insight into other organisational changes on the island including a new UNHCR team in assisting us and severe medical cases which occured this week.

  • A different team from UNHCR has joined me on the island from Friday. Ermal, Protection officer based in Rhodes (he has been in Kastellorizo with us quite few times already), Vanessa, Senior Protection officer based in Kos (part of Marco Procaccini's Team) and Ihmad an Arabic interpreter. They have been meeting the mayor few times already in the last few days, discussing about the urgent necessity of reopening the hall.
  • UNHCR has arranged a storage place for 20 days for their supplies. They will send us different aid materials tomorrow on the ferry.
  • Tomorrow all the people that have been accommodated in the last week at the expenses of the UNHCR, as they have already been informed, will have to leave their hotel rooms, as such cost and situation is not sustainable for any longer. The importance of reopening the hall, is therefore striking, as otherwise 109 will have to sleep outside, including a large number of women and children.
  • 15 refugees left on the ferry on Friday, and these were families with babies between 0 and 6 months and one pregnant woman with her family (an exception according to EU-Turkey deal).
  • This week has been intense also in regards of medical cases. Unfortunately we had two serious cases. One 17 year old boy from Iraq with severe epilepsy, and one woman from Iraq probably suffering of PTSD (I say probably because the doctors were not able due to the limited equipment, to give a specific diagnosis). These two patients have been transferred to Rhodes by helicopter today in the late afternoon. As you may understand this means the police released their papers. Also their families received relief papers and they will be able to travel to Rhodes tomorrow hoping that the ferry will not be cancelled due to weather conditions (it has been very windy all day today).
  • Right now we have 109 people on the island.
  • Following the EU-Turkey deal, refugees landing in Greece from the 20th of March are considered 'detained'. This means that official institutions (in our case the police), should provide a meal to the 'detainees'. From today the police here in Kastellorizo has provided sandwiches and croissants for all the refugees (1 meal).

We, of course, continue to provide the hot meal but are having to serve it outside as we have no indoor facilities at our disposal.

23.03.2016 - hall remains closed and refugees keep arriving

We have another update from Martina on the island. While we had no arrivals, we had some yesterday and the day before (including a tragedy with the death of two children) which makes it difficult to see the impact 'in practice' of the EU/Turkey Agreement on migratory flows. Read below for Martina's account and the difficulties she is facing in delivering aid, with little cooperation from political actors on the island:

"Today we had no arrivals. Therefore the total number of refugees on the island is 127.
Most of the people have been somehow accommodated by the UNHCR in rooms. There is around 30 men sleeping outside. Clearly this is not a solution for shelter, it is extremely temporary. And it will be impossible from tomorrow to continue in such way to provide accommodation.
I have managed to serve breakfast and 1 common meal everyday. As you can understand this has to be done in the middle of the street since we have no access to the hall. I have to say it can be challenging. It is pretty frustrating having so many difficulties to be able to deliver aid, especially knowing that this is the reason of our presence on the island. Most of the people right now have very little or no money, therefore they are in need of everything.
I have to say I have received a lot of support from the UNHCR team present on the island in the last few days (David and Nassir)."

We understand that since the signing of the agreement, the police is not issuing relief papers to anybody anymore.

21.03.2016 - update following eu/turkey agreement

Following the EU-Turkey Agreement signed on March 18th, we have been in close contact with our Representatives on the island to monitor the situation and understand whether it is affecting migration flows in practice. On March 18th, we were actually once again unprepared for the Mayor's decision to abruptly close the hall once again after some misunderstandings concerning the way a vacant apartment of the Municipality was being used to store vital first aid donations including change of clothing for wet children and equipment for newborns. Today the Hall still remains closed, despite the pressure that various local organizations as well as international bodies are putting on the Municipality to follow a more concrete strategy rather than being so volatile in their decision making processes.

We are very sorry to say that yesterday was actually a horrible day on the island, with two very young children drowning after a boat arriving from Turkey during the night sunk off the coast of Ro, one of the small islands off of Kastellorizo. Below the account of Martina, out Representative present on the island:

"Another tough day on the island. This morning a boat sunk off near the island of Ro. I am very sad to say two children died.  
In total we had 87 people arriving. 57 on the boat which sunk and 30 on another boat which arrived directly to Mandraki.
The group of 57 people has been arranged in hotels by the UNHCR, while the rest unfortunately is sleeping outside due the closure of the hall. They have all been equipped with sleeping bags and blankets.
The common meal was served to everyone in the area in front of the hall."

The Shanti morgue freezer was used yesterday for the first time and the families of these children left the island this morning with a ferry to Rhodes. They were unable to pay for the ferry journey so our team decided to take this cost upon ourselves and make sure these family made it to Rhodes following such a traumatic experience. Updates to follow.

19.03.2016 - Thank you for your very kind donations

On the 5th of March, the Medical Center finally received the morgue freezer which was requested by the island doctors and which was ordered by our team and bought with Shanti funds of our generous donors.

A gazebo, also bought with Shanti funds and set up by our Representatives Magda and Martina, was placed outside the Police station where refugees have to wait sometime to get their paperwork done. This allows for a protected welcome space where we can offer some first aid and shelter to the refugees after their journeys and while they wait for the bureaucratic processes.

So, many many many thanks for your very kind donations! They allow us to go forward with our good work everyday and we would not have been able to make it this far without your generosity. Thank you on behalf of the whole Shanti team!

10.03.2016 - shanti representatives get unhcr training on protection

On Thursdays March 9th, Filed Officer of UNHCR Marco Porcaccini, based in Kos, Greece organized a training session on Protection for all volunteers working on Kastellorizo. The training took place on March 10th at Kavos Cafe and was attended by three Shanti Representatives, Mimika, Magda and Martina. The other attendees included the Medical Centre volunteers working in close collaboration with Shanti in running the hall - George - pharmacist, Katerina - architect and Zacahrias - pharmacist - another local volunteer in close collaboration with Shanti called Franis, who is a meteorologist and who has assisted in repairing mobile devices on refugees, as well as four other volunteers responsible for the clothing of the refugees who have faced difficulties since the clothing centre burned down two weeks ago (see post below). 

The training was specifically about Protection and offered some insights into UNHCR as an institutions and its work in Greece before and after the recent crisis. Marco then spoke specifically about the legal procedures for refugees arriving in Greece before considering the protection of the people arriving on the island and volunteer organizations and initiatives like Shanti can be the best at ensuring inclusive, participatory and accountable protection to the refugees. 

From the exercise, our Representatives on the island have come to understand that accountability is key and a way to ensure and maximize this, is for uniforms and name badges to be worn by everybody working on the island. This is a way of distinguishing organizations, the people working and enforcing accountability when things go well and when things go wrong. From this, we are the process of finding t-shirts, rain coats and name badges with the Shanti logo in order to distinguish our Representatives.

Moreover, following the training, our Shanti Representatives spoke with Marco and have been able to secure further training on further themes such as, Trafficking, Unaccompanied Minors and Security Standards. Mr Porcaccini agreed to this and will organize the sessions in the near future. 

 UNHCR Training at Kavos Cafe on 10/03/2016

UNHCR Training at Kavos Cafe on 10/03/2016

04.03.2016 - municipality reopens public hall hosting refugees

Since Thursday February 25th, the public hall which had been used to host and feed the refugees, has been closed by the municipality. A meeting, earlier the same week, had failed to bring council members to a unanimous agreement to use the hall for hosting and feeding the refugees from their arrival on the island to their transition, a few days later to the bigger island of Rhodes or Athens. This had been causing substantial problems for our Shanti Refugees as they were having to find alternative ways of feeding the daily meal as well as sleeping arrangements for an increasing number of refugees arriving on the island - especially women and very young children. 

On Friday March 4th, the hall was finally reopened and the keys were given directly to our Shanti Representatives who were trusted to reopen the hall themselves. This was a great success and moment of relief for our Representatives who had been trying very hard to make everybody understand how vital the hall was for the whole situation to be under control and smoother for everybody involved - the refugees themselves, the organizations working to help them but also the locals and the islanders. The hall allows for order and a point of reference for the refugees which, for a week, had been sleeping in hotels (if they could afford to) but mostly in the street with very scarce bedding supplies (see post below). 

 A Shanti Representative re-opening the hall!

A Shanti Representative re-opening the hall!

All in all, a success for Shanti but more importantly, a relief to know that the children and women arriving on Kastellorizo will at least have an indoor space to rest and a warm meal fed to them. This municipality has agreed to keep the hall open until at least the 10th of April. We are yet to know what will happen after but we are hopeful that the council can arrive to a more permanent agreement to keep the hall open. 

01.03.2016 - CLOTHING STORING FACILITY SET ON FIRE

In the early hours of the morning on Tuesday March 1st, three days after the municipality closed down the public hall which they had made available for sheltering of refugees, the clothing donations storage facility caught fire. The issue remains under investigation given unclear conditions and circumstances as to how the fire broke out and who was responsabile for this. Updates to follow.

28.02.2016 - good and bad news

In the middle of February, Kastellorizo experienced a dramatic increase in the number of refugee arrivals on the island, reaching over 900 on the weekend of February 19th-20th. Despite the many obstacles, our representatives Magda and Martina managed to feed and protect over 600 people. They were able to give shelter to 300 people inside the municipality Hall giving priority to newborns, children, mothers, women, elderly and disabled. The rest of the people were equipped with blankets and sleeping bags in order to sleep outside, around the hall as it had reached and surpassed its full capacity.

During this crisis, Shanti received help and support from both UNHCR and MSF with practical issues, supplies and coordination of the operations. Moreover, MSF has trusted our representatives with their supplies and have left these on the island to be distributed and managed by Martina and Magda as they deem appropriate.

Our representatives tell us that all institutions on the island - police, army, navy - continue to support Shanti. Our relationship with the coast guard is especially strong, with continuous mutual support.

During the recent crisis, MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) also arrived on Kastellorizo. They were tasked with transporting the many refugees to Rhodes in order to relieve pressure from Kastellorizo. Given our previous exchange with MOAS, as soon as they received order from the Greek coast guard to provide support to Kastellorizo, they made contact with Shanti directly to make sure they could coordinate efforts with us.

Despite all these good efforts and collaborations, on Thursday 25th of February while our representatives were helping refugees onto the MOAS boat headed to Rhodes, the Mayor announced that at a council meeting on the previous day, the municipality had made a decision to close the Hall which had up to now been made available for the shelter of the refugees. The police followed his order and closed the hall having to remove 5 women, of which 1 8-months pregnant, 1 elderly and 3 mothers, along with 12 children. These women were desperately waiting for their husbands who had previously been arrested by the Turkish coastal guard. The UNHCR provided them shelter for that night and our representatives brought them food and spent some time with them to make them feel safe. This group of women and children left the island on Monday 29th with UNHCR and went to Rhodes.

On Sunday February 28th, the Hall remained closed and all those who cannot afford to pay for hotels continue to sleep outside. A group of very poor women and children had to sleep outside for the last 3 days. Although the ferry to Rhodes ran a service on Monday, they were unable to leave Kastellorizo because they had no money to pay for the ferry, as we were told. The municipality has said that they are aware of the difficulties and of these very sad and tough experiences; we are therefore patiently awaiting the Mayor and Municipality to decide how to address the issue of sheltering the vulnerable population of the refugees.  We continue to keep in touch with UNHCR and maintain an open line of communication on all developments with them.

Despite the difficult and critical situation, Magda and Martina are still trying to deliver as much aid as possible, starting from first relief when refugees arrive on the island and have to go through long procedures at the coastal guard and police, to the delivery of blankets and sleeping bags to bear with the night temperatures for those sleeping outside. In addition, they are in the process of setting up a distribution system for the food, in order to keep feeding those in need even without the Hall.  We hope to have this in place by the end of this week.

  • Food and water keep being delivered to the island, with the last deliveries on the 26th of February.  The latest water supply has been put on hold, pending the municipality’s decision regarding the storage space they have allocated to Shanti
  • We are also in charge of MSF water supplies, which were left on the island last week.
  • We have placed an order for 2 flood lights to be placed outside the police station and these should be received and installed soon.
  • The morgue freezer was dispatched on 26/02 to Rhodes and will arrive on Kastellorizo by the end of this week.
  • The repairs, which we had contracted for the Hall, have been put on hold given the Municipality’s decision to close it for now.
  • Our representatives have moved into an apartment so they now have a space they can rest together and a desk they can work from when needed.

18.02.2016 - UPDATE

Daily meal: This is offered as needed, in collaboration with the local authorities and depending on numbers of people hosted in the Village Hall.  This can vary depending on their arrival time and needs.  We continue the bi-weekly supply of groceries and biodegradable plates and our volunteers have become experts in orchestrating this, in close collaboration with the relevant authorities on the island.

Water:  This continues to be provided with monthly shipments, which we expect may decline, once the reverse osmosis drinking water filters are fitted.  We are still working to get the specifications finalized for those.

Cleaning/sanitation: we continue to ensure that the Village Hall is kept clean and sanitized, through the help of our volunteers, our wonderful cleaning lady and of course many of the refugees, who do help us.

Toilet/shower facilities and electricity in the hall: we are in collaboration with the local authorities in order to find the right solution and obtain the quotes for the work that can be done to repair electrical sockets in the hall, and maybe install shower facilities outside the hall.  The toilets have been fixed.

Volunteers accommodation: we currently still have two people on the ground: Magda Terzidou and Martina Trombetta.  They are both hosted in a space offered by the municipality, for which we are very thankful.  We intend to continue having 1-2 people on the ground in the coming months.

Morgue freezer: this will be with Greek customs soon and we hope that it will be delivered by the end of the month, so as to ensure that our good doctor, Mr. Randos, will be on site to oversee the installation.  Mimika Miliadou is finalizing arrangements for what seems to be a very complicated logistical challenge

Gazebo outside the police station: this has been delivered safely

Waterproof gloves for coast guard:  We have sent protective gloves to the coast guard on 11 Feb, which should be received soon.

28.01.2016 - General update

Our Greek correspondent and collaborator Mimika visited Kastellorizo last week (25/01) and was able to report back to us with some important progress in our efforts to support the island and its people to accommodate the current refugee situation. As you have been following, since September we have been establishing relationships with suppliers for everything from food, to water, to maritime equipment for the coast guard, to medical supplies for the island doctor Ioannis. Given the constant flow of people arriving on the island and the less-than-reliable ferry services which transport the people to the mainland as well as the supplies to the island, we are taking steps towards making our food, water and biodegradable plates used for the daily food distribution orders bi-weekly rather than monthly, so as to reduce the chances of stock-outs in our supply chain.

Reverse osmosis driving water filters: there would allow us to rely less on imported bottled water and we have approached new suppliers as we were unable to move forward with PurePro USA. These two new Greek suppliers have received the Bacteriological Analysis of Kastellorizo water done and have requested a chemical analysis so as to be able to proceed in determining the quality of the water and the exact filters we will need.

Morgue freezer: we have now identified and ordered this with an advance payment. We are waiting for delivery details, which should arrive mid-February.

Daily meal: this is up and running since 22/12/2015. We are now working towards including meat at least once a week in the meal. We have ordered 160 frozen chickens (1,3kg/pc) and will decide shortly exactly how to distribute these.

Gazebo for outside the police station: We have two suppliers, with two different options; a lighter option in the form of a tent construction and a more resistant option, a windproof construction. We have placed an order and are awaiting shipment.

Toilet/shower facilities and electricity in the hall: We have met with a local plumber and a local electrician who would be taking care of repairing and installing shower and toilet facilities to the hall and the coast guard house and repairing damaged electrical sockets in the hall. We are waiting quotations for:

  • The repair of all damages to the toilets inside the hall
  • The repair of the shower facilities outside the hall
  • The repair of the single toilet in the coast guard building
  • The installation of two new small toilets inside the coast guard building
  • Repair of the damage in the toilet of one of the municipality apartments
  • The check and repair of damaged sockets in the hall

Volunteers and accommodation: A new volunteer Martina Trombetta will be arriving on the island this Friday and will have one week handover period with Magda who has been on the island sinceJanuary. Martina will be on Kastellorizo for the months of February and March and will becoordinating the general running of the hall and meal times and will oversee the work of all the different actors in our operations. We are in the process of purchasing a new mattress, pillows and blankets to furnish a room in a municipality apartment for her accommodation while she is on the island.

Free shipping: We are happy to report that all shipment of supplies to the island by Blue Star Ferry continues to be free, as granted by the company in an official letter sent to us on 17/12/2015.

Keep checking this space for more updates very soon. In the meantime, we have uploaded some new pictures showing our progress. You may check these out here.

17.01.2016 - general update

This is in reference to our 22/12 General Update which has since progressed. The following items have been updated:

Morgue freezer:  We have paid a deposit and await delivery of the item in mid-February

Daily meals: the food provision is firmly in place and refugees continue to receive a meal per day.  We are working towards adding one meal containing meat per week and are currently in negotiations with local providers.

Waterproof gloves: we have located the provider and are awaiting the formal acceptance of this aid from the Coast Guard Authority in Athens in order to proceed.

11.01.2016 - donations from our suppliers

We would like to take this post as an opportunity to thank all the Greek suppliers who have kindly donated and discounted some of our requested supplies. These donations and discounts are very much the result of our Shanti representative, Mimika, who is working hard for Kastellorizo from Athens.

  1. Vikos Water: supplier of high quality bottled water, has donated quantities of mineral water, cup dispensers, plastic cups and has also granted us free shipping from Vikos' central warehouse to the carrier's premises.
  2. Sklavenitis super market: supplier of food, offered discounts on the two orders we placed to them on 13/11/2015 and 03/12/2015.
  3. Praktiker: supplier of chairs and convectors discounted approximately 30% off our order.
  4. Crewsaver: supplier of life jackets for the coast guard, also gave us a 30% discount on our order of 7 life jackets.
  5. Alpha-Sigma IME: the transportation company granted us free shipping on our first big delivery to the island on 11/11/2015.
  6. Makris S: supplier of medical equipment, gave us a discount on the Morgue Freezer MIXTA
  7. Attica Group (Superfast Ferries & Blue Star Ferries): ferry company delivering supplies to Kastellorizo, as written in a letter dated 17/12/2015 have granted us free shipping on all our deliveries to Kastellorizo for 2016.

These efforts together have totaled to donations of €1,543.10 and we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank every single supplier for the efforts they have put into our Shanti effort.

02.01.2016 - Arrivals in the new year

We received an e-mail from Monika and Damien on January 1st, with a brief update on arrivals and conditions on the island on the first day of 2016. Upon their return to Kastellorizo after spending sometime back home in Germany for the holidays, they reported to us that the amount of refugees on the island has not been as high as it was in earlier December and passed months because of very strong windstorms making the crossing from the Turkish coast more difficult and dangerous as well as the bitter cold which has arrived. On New Year's Eve, the temperature had dropped to -1 degrees Celsius - a very rare occurrence for Kastellorizo which is so far South.

22.12.2015 - General Update

Yesterday morning we had a conference call with Vincenzo, Iphigenia, Mimika and Madhuri from Shanti Refugees and Ariadne, our UNHCR correspondent. We got updates on various points of our efforts which we summarise below:

Water update: we are continuing to send bottled water to Kastellorizo as it continues to be a great necessity. However, we have also come into contact with a supplier of water filters that can be attached to the taps in the hall and houses given to us by the municipality for hosting the refugees to convert the non-drinking water to drinking water. This would make a substantial difference to our costs in supplying drinking water to everyone. We are working with providers and a geologist in Athens to make sure we supply the right filters.  This is still ongoing.

Morgue freezer: Although a grim topic, one we must not ignore. We have had two different offers from two different suppliers and Ioannis, the doctor has made a decision about which one to order. We will be proceeding with the order shortly.

Food update:

  • Daily meals: as of today (22/12), the daily meal granted to each refugee will be distributed. There has been delay in getting this active because of set backs with logistics amongst local authorities. We are also looking to find a more structured and more stable solution for this daily meal in the long term. 
  • Biodegradable plates: these were ordered and arrived on Kastellorizo from Rhodes on 22/12 and they will be used by local authorities to distribute the daily meal to the refugees.
  • Food provision: additional food, provided by Shanti was delivered to Kastellorizo on Friday.

Coast guard update:

  • Life jackets: 7 life jackets for the coast guards use on their rescue missions were received on 18/12 and the Harbor Master immediately called to express his gratitude.
  • Waterproof gloves: we are in the process of ordering and providing the entire Greek coast guard (about 200 people on the front-line) with a specific type of glove against the cold and water. These gloves are extremely necessary for anybody working on the rescue missions but the Greek coast guard is short of these. Shanti has decided to take on this responsibility and will be providing the gloves, which will be very useful for everyone on the front-line of the Greek mission.

Hall usage: while the hall and houses are currently being provided by the local municipality, this is ad hoc usage as municipality is not willing to grant full, long term usage of the space because of burden of responsibility that this entails. As a result, Ariadne of the UNHCR has said she will contact Region’s Governor, the Southern Aegean Region which is in charge of the hall, in order to find solution by applying political pressure to release responsibility from local authority.

Toilet and shower facilities: the provision of these is proving to be more difficult than expected because commitment of local authorities to grant Shanti the hall and houses as space to host the refugees is an ad hoc, day-by-day commitment rather than a long term guaranteed commitment. Because of the volatility of such commitment, we have not been able to progress on the provision of toilets and showers as we would have wanted to although we have asked for quotes from two local suppliers. As a result, the UNHCR representative has vowed that they will apply political pressure to emphasize the necessity and urgency of a more permanent arrangement so that we can go forward with the provision of such important facilities.

Uninhabited islands: Shanti has provided food and UNHCR blankets and high protein and energy food bars, to the uninhabited islands surrounding Kastellorizo. Refugees often arrive to these smaller islands around Kastellorizo before being rescued by the coast guard and taken to Kastellorizo. Because of bad weather and logistics, the refugees may be stranded on these smaller islands for hours and sometimes even overnight night. As such, we have provided food and the UNHCR blankets and high protein food bars, for first-hand assistance to the refugees when they arrive and await transportation to the main island.

Pamphlets for the refugees: Ioannis the doctor in collaboration with the volunteers and the other Syrian doctor have produced several pamphlets and signs to distribute to the refugees when they arrive to the hall and houses, to explain the functioning of the space and the ‘house rules’. These regulations are also explained to the refugees verbally and since, the maintenance and condition of the spaces have improved.

Cleaner: a cleaner has been hired to clean the hall and houses regularly.

Volunteer investigation: for January 2016, Ms. Magda Terzidou will be on the island working alongside Ioannis the doctor and the other local authorities. She currently works as Communications Coordination at Athens Biennalle and has 10 years work experience as volunteer at “Dromois Zois” NGO on project “Greek-Muslim Community”. We are currently also working towards finding volunteers for February and March. Shanti will cover travel costs and release a monthly stipend of 750€ to cover our volunteers and will negotiate with the municipality for the provision of accommodation.

11.12.2015 - Follow up with RNLI

Last week, we had a follow up telephone conversation with James Vaughan, the International Director at RNLI to better understand how we could set up support for the Kastellorizo coast guard who lead the rescue missions to save the refugees arriving from the Turkish coast. The reality is that they are struggling with the increasing number of arrivals and then inadequate equipment and limited staff they have available. Providing support to them is definitely one of our priorities at the moment. James asked us to draft him an email summarizing in detail the actual rescue missions of the coast guards so that he could present these at a meeting he was having with his coworkers today to better understand how RNLI can develop an overall strategy to support all the various initiatives taking place in the Aegean Sea. We are quite hopeful as James mentioned more than once that although there are many different efforts taking place, none are happening quite as far South as ours. 

"All the information below comes directly from Antonis Dimakis, the head of the coast guard on Kastellorizo. 

The boats:

  1. 10.9 meter-long inflatable rib. 
  2. 17 meter long hard-base CB90. However, this is for military use rather than for rescue missions but they are having to use it now given their conditions. The insurance does not cover any damage done to the boat and given the hard-base of it, if it bangs on the rocks during a rescue mission, the coast guard himself could be liable which is problematic. 

The crew:

  • The crew on the large (military) boat is typically a minimum of 4 but should be realistically 5 or 6 minimum. 
  • The minimum crew for smaller boats was 2 but it should now be 3. 
  • Ideally, the crew to cover one shift should be 10 people and there should be two sets of cerw, in order to allow for rest, time off, illness, etc.  at a minimum.  3 sets of crew per station is what the service recommends on paper, but is not happening anywhere in Greece.
  • Part of that crew would also be in the office for admin processing
  • Antonis has said that he would require a similar set up to the coast guard station of Symi island (another small island near Rhodes) which you may be aware of. 

The actual missions:

  • Typically, one of the two boats goes out once or twice and makes multiple stops but there have been times where both boats go out up to 5 times a day (max that has ever occurred)
  • Some people call family and relatives which are already on Kastellorizo, that they have arrived on the small uninhabited islands around Kastellorizo, to pass the message onto the coast guard that they should be rescued. 
  • Some people call the main line and speak directly with the coast guard office to advise that they have arrived. 
  • Some get seen by army which occupies and resides on the small uninhabited islands around Kastllorizo who then in turn calls the coast guard for rescue/pick up. 
  • The coast guard would typically intercept boats which are coming across from the Turkish coast but this causes a problem with armed smugglers, which pose a threat and danger to both the refugees and the coast guard. Here the coast guard face a dilemma as to whether they priorities saving the refugees of arresting the smugglers. So rather, the coast guard on occasion may have to to wait for the smuggler boats to first deposit the refugees in order to avoid danger and having to deal with two problems at once. 
  • The coast guard has few scheduled patrols and mainly rely on people calling family members/the office as well as military and coast guard look outs on the small uninhabited islands to call for a rescue mission to take place. 

Daily rescues: no real minimum or maximum per day but there have been 1069 arrivals in November, averaging at 36 a day. 

However, these numbers only include the amount of people picked up by the coast guard while some people arrive on the island by themselves and register directly to the police and these numbers are currently not known to us.

When: Most arrivals happen during the night as it is safer for the smugglers but in cases of bad weather, the coast guard will leave the refugees in the care of the army, which patrol the small uninhabited islands and go and rescue them the following day. 

Duration of missions: This obviously varies but latest account is 75 people in 1.5 hours. 

One more thing to note, is that according to procedures, the Greek Coast Guard is not be allowed to accept any help with rescue missions, unless authorized by their superiors, as a matter of safety.  We are working towards getting the correct contacts in place at the headquarters in Athens, in anticipation of any help we may be able to orchestrate."

We are now waiting for a reply from James to know what was discusses in their meeting today and what sort of help and support we may be able to provide to the Kastellorizo coast guard. We really hope we will be able to draw on your experience and resources, as we would like to replicate what others have done for example in Sweden with Gula Båtarna or MOAS - Migrant Offshore Aid Station in Malta. Especially as the winter months draw closer and we can only expect more strain on the already broken Greek system. The moral and selflessness of these people is the only thing keeping the refugees safe. 

04.12.2015 - coast guard update

On Friday 4th of December, our Greek-speaking representative Iphigenia, had a call with Antonis Dimakis, the head of the coast guard on Kastellorizo and this is what she writes:

They currently have 7 people on the ground, but actually need 20.  They receive some help from Rhodes, but it is in the form of 2 people for a few days, so by the time they get to know what is where, they have to leave. I am actually quite overwhelmed by how distressed he was, so am keen to explore all avenues that may prove useful.

We will now follow up on the correspondence we had started with RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) in mid-November (see post dated 21.11.2015) to see how and when they may intervene. We were hoping to get some dry suits and boots donated but given the urgency of such equipment and delays in getting concrete responses from RNLI, we resorted to buying them with the funds donated by you. We will now follow up with them for donations of other, less urgent equipment but also more importantly we would like for them to visit Kastellorizo to see the conditions under which the cost guard is working in order to get more people and help down there. As you read from Iphigenia's words, they are severely understaffed and the help they are currently getting may actually be a burden rather than a benefit.

23.11.2015 - update

The water coolers we provided were set up today at the port authority and well as in the municipality hall.

Moreover, today Mimika, the Shanti Refugees representative on Kastellorizo, received by boat many of the supplies including wheelchairs, heaters, chairs (indoors and outdoors) and cleaning material. All of the supplies are locked in a storage area, almost across the street from the Municipality and the Vice Mayor is in charge as well as storage manager of the municipality, Mr. Niotis. Together, with these two gentlemen, the following supplies have been distributed.

To the Coast Guard:

  • Cooler with water
  • Heater
  • 10 plastic chairs

To the Health Centre:

  • Water cooler
  • Heater
  • 10 chairs
  • 2 wheelchairs
  • All the cleaning material
  • Baby milk

Police:

  • Water cooler
  • Heater
  • 30 outdoors plastic chairs
  • 4 office chairs
  • 10 indoor chairs

Municipality Hall:

  • Water cooler

Everyone will be calling Mr. Niotis for replenishment of the water supply. In storage we still have the following supplies which will be distributed once decisions will be made with the Vice Mayor, the doctor and volunteers regarding the general running of our operations:

  • 12 inflatable matresses
  • 100 carry mats
  • Food for daily meals
  • Palettes with 10-litre and 1.5-litre bottles of water
  • 2 water coolers
  • 7 heaters

23.11.2015 - the program for this week's deliveries

A Shanti Refugees representative, Mimika, arrived on the island Friday (20/11) and since then has been coordinating deliveries of resources and equipment. She help with the deliver of water supplies last week, head lamps on Saturday (see post below) and mats, mattresses, chairs and heaters this morning (23/11). She is also there to detect and understand exactly how the processes and operations should be set up. Later this week, she, Ioannis the doctor and the two volunteers who will arrive on the island next week will be meeting in Athens to set the processes in stone.

Starting this week, Shanti Refugees will also be paying for a cleaner in order to maintain the main hall, which the municipality has provided to house the refugees as clean as possible. This was a major concern for the municipality.

Yesterday, Mimika met with the municipality as well as UNHCR to further discuss the housing of refugees and we are expecting an update from UNCHR later this week.

Ioaniss, the doctor, is currently in Athens and although the medication has already been procured, he has asked that the medication be kept in Athens until he returns to the island next week as some of it needs to be kept refrigerated. He will be the one managing the storage of the medication in the storage center.

21.11.2015 - Coastguards receive head lamps & equipment update

On Saturday morning the head lamps were finally delivered to Kastellorizo by Mimika, our Shanti Refugees representative who is currently on the island. 5 of these waterproof head lamps were bought by Shanti Refugees and they will be worn by the coast guards to allow for more freedom of movement and security on their missions to rescue the refugees swimming across from Turkey or taking refuge on the small rock islands off the coast of Kastellorizo.

Moreover, on Friday we were in touch with RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) about the possibility of forming some kind of collaboration for the provision of the dry suits and boots to the coast guards. The reality is that since September, the number of refugees coming across has drastically increased.  Most rescues take place at night by the 5-strong team of the coast guard. They are all very young, but extremely committed and motivated professionals, who have absolutely no resources.

As you can imagine, in anticipation of the winter months ahead, it is essential to ensure that these men and women will be kept safe, so that they can continue their work, which is delivered without the support of the Greek state, given the location of the station and the fact that Greece itself is facing a crisis. Shanti Refugees is hoping to secure 5 search and rescue dry suits for them in various sizes, along with 8 pairs of boots, so that they can be more flexible in the way they will be used.

We have turned to RNLI to ask for advice about what they think might help them do their work in more humane circumstances and following that, whether the RNLI would be able to or willing to donate this equipment.

RNLI have come back to us and told us that they are in process of coordinating the different efforts similar to Shanti Refugees which are taking place all over the many small Greek islands. They were however, very impressed and interested in out specific cause as we are the ones operating the furthest South which they have heard about so far. They have said that they will be getting back to us in 2-3 weeks with an answer as to if and how they may be able to help. So keep watching this space for further updates on this operation.

17.11.15 - solutions for SHANTI staff and volunteers on the island

In order for the operations on the island to run smoothly and efficiently, we have realised that we require a Shanti representative to be permanently present on the island at least from now until the end of January when things will be more set up and running. We are in the process of selecting this representative and should have this sorted by Friday 20/11/15. 

In addition to the Shanti administrator, our fundraising effort will also go towards supporting two monthly volunteers who will mostly work with Ioannis the doctor, and who will help in the general running of the centre hosting refugees which has been provided by the local municipality.

Ioannis the doctor, has found two volunteers who will support the project from the 27/11/2015 to the end of December 2015. Our fundraising effort will contribute 700€ to each volunteers which will cover their transport and living expenses whilst they are there.

14.11.15 - clothing donations arrive to the island from Biot, FR

Today, we received a phone call from one of Monika's collaborators on the island to confirm the arrival of the 10 boxes of clothing donations which we were able to gather from colleagues in Milan and friends and families in Biot, France. Monika was very thankful for everything she received - especially winter clothes for children. Let's keep this going!

10.11.15 - TACKLING THE NEED FOR RELIABLE WATER SUPPLY

The water company we have found, will deliver everything to the transport company in Athens, who will acknowledge receipt and load everything on a truck and ship it to Rhodes and from there to Kastellorizo. 

The delivery will be made to the doctor on the island who has found vacant space which he will use for storing all of the supplies.

The water coolers are simply plugged in so no one has to help install them.

The 72 vats of water that fit on the water coolers at 1.440 litres of water (1 box = 20 litres)

We are catering for 0.7 lt per person per day.

The 1.5 lt bottles come in 6-packs and we have ordered 168 of them. 

A new boat strike is expected to start on Thursday, so it is likely that all this will reach Kastellorizo next week.  However, if the boats do run, we hope to have the water, food and headlamps on it. 

29.10.2015 - BREAKDOWN OF REFUGEES' ARRIVAL PROCEDURE

New arrivals are mostly received by the port authority (PA), who has to physically keep them on their premises, until all paperwork is completed.  Depending on the number of people, this can take a few hours.  The first basic needs are those for dry clothes, water, toilet and medical attention for those who require it.  There is no working public toilet on the island; the 1 toilet in the port authority is not working properly and is not suitable for use, often not even by the PA employees themselves.  Often, water donations are running out and food items are not available, unless informally provided by the port authority personnel on an individual / personal basis and cost.

Once the PA complete their paperwork, all new arrivals have to complete a new set of paperwork with the Police, which is the one that will allow them to travel.  However, this cannot be done in the middle of the night, which is when most people arrive and they all have to wait until the next day, wherever they can.  Once they start the process with the police, they can expect to obtain their paperwork within a few hours or 24 hours at most, again depending on numbers.

Upon receiving their document they are free to travel onwards, however there are only two ways out of Kastellorizo: A boat on Monday and Friday and a plane on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, although this is subject to winter timetables and mainly, the weather.  Boats and planes are cancelled often, as the weather worsens.

Until Sunday, there was no provision by the authorities to provide any sort of shelter for the refugees that arrived on the island.  Today, the municipality has offered two houses for the vulnerable individuals (women and young children) who can use them for 12-24 hours as an emergency measure between the PA process and the Police process.

As explained, once the document from the police is obtained, the new arrivals are free to move on the island.  Some will ask for a room, others are unlikely to be able to afford one.  The temporary help that was provided in the form of subsidized rooms, of course helped maintain a very strong sense of normality on the island, as people were no longer seen sleeping outside, but was not one that could be sustained for long.  This was made clear on the second day and this process is no longer in place.