October, 2015—Although thousands of refugees have transited through Samos Island in Greece, there’s little evidence of them along the beaches. Life jackets have been tidily put into dumpsters, and refugees have quickly moved from the shore to the transit centers where they must register before continuing their journey.
“The situation looks deceptively normal,” said Amanda Shettleroe, a Samaritan’s Purse program manager on the ground in Samos. “On one side of the bay are picturesque shops geared toward tourists and locals alike. And there are groups of people moving in and around the town. One would think that these groups of people are groups of tourists. But on the other side of the bay sits a makeshift transit site.”
Police come multiple times a day to process the 500 to 1,000 refugees who come through the center daily. The registration can take most of the day. Once refugees have their papers, they can purchase ferry tickets to Athens and continue on their journey across Europe.
After they register, non-Syrian refugees go to a detention center. Syrian refugees receive the paperwork needed to transit in one to three days but most non-Syrian refugees have had to wait more than a week.
The greatest needs at the centers include sanitation, hygiene and food. With winter coming, sleeping bags and jackets will be vital to keeping the refugees warm and healthy, especially as many of them wait at the port overnight to catch the 5 a.m. ferry.
There is little shelter at both locations, so most families end up sleeping outside. Those who don’t have tents must sleep on mats, blankets or asphalt. In mid-October, the ferry wasn’t running as scheduled, leaving as many as 3,000 people in the transit center which was built for 200 to 250 people. It was housing more than twice that number earlier this week.
At both the transit center and the detention center, there is potable water for drinking, hand washing, and bathing, but, sometimes, the spigots don’t function and no water comes out. The situation leaves refugees thirsty and in need of basic hygiene.
“The conditions available for the refugees are deplorable,” Amanda said. “The trash is overflowing. Site maintenance is stretched beyond its capacity. The day the water went out, I could smell the toilets from the parking lot. Women were standing in a line 20-40 deep with their noses covered. As the rains came in, I saw people pushing to get into the shelter containers. Others huddled under what little awnings they could find. Some didn’t even bother moving in from the rain.”
Samaritan’s Purse plans to focus on water, sanitation and hygiene, along with distributing blankets, ponchos, and sleeping bags. Items must be small enough that the refugees can carry them on their journey. As people make their way across Europe in weather conditions that continue to deteriorate, please pray for their safety. Please also pray that our team will show them the love of Christ as they meet their needs.
In the midst of political crisis around the world, Samaritan's Purse stands ready to meet the needs of citizens and our partners on the ground. Your gift allows us to supply basic necessities and offer emotional and spiritual support.