Lord Greaves Debates Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lesbos | House of Lords | Syria News
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Lord Greaves raises the issue of increased numbers of refugees hitting the Greek Islands such as Lesbos, speaking in a debate in the House of Lords introduced by Lord Truscott on Thursday 28th October
Syria Refugee Crisis in Lesbos
The great city of Aleppo was of course the beginning of the Silk Road but is now the beginning of a very different road for a large number of people who are now—quite rightly, from their point of view—trying to get out and are moving to other countries, particularly Turkey, and on to Greece and perhaps Bulgaria. There has been a lot of publicity recently about the position in Lesbos. That is not surprising, because of the Greek islands just off the Turkish coast, Lesbos has taken the most refugees. I have figures which suggest that it has taken 273,000 refugees this year—it is probably higher than that now, two weeks later. However, there are other islands in that area: Chios, Samos and Kos, which have all taken 45,000, 63,000 and 69,000 refugees according to these figures. The figures suggest that Leros has taken 26,500, and only three days ago it took 730 in one day. People are being held up there by the bureaucratic necessity that is being put on them to register, and the situation in those islands is desperate.
Where do the refugees go next?
From Greece, the refugees move on to Macedonia, Croatia and now to Slovenia. These countries are doing their very best to cope with the crisis within their borders; the crisis is nothing to do with them, it is not their fault, yet they are having to cope. Hungary has put up borders and is behaving in a way which is quite disgraceful for a member of the European Union. Croatia is trying to cope—they are building a new winter transit centre in Slavonski Brod as the desperately cold Balkan winters approach, but that will take only 5,000 people. How many people are trying to cross Europe now? Nobody knows, but we know that some half a million people have sought asylum in European countries this year already—I do not know how many of those are Syrians, but very many of them are—including all those who are setting off from their camps in Turkey and trying to cross the Aegean. Those who get across successfully are crossing Greece, the Balkan countries and Austria, which is now talking of putting up fences.
Lord Greaves seeks support for People to People Solidarity
When my wife was looking at the internet to discover for me what the situation is for people crossing Europe she came across an astonishing Facebook site, which I will put on the record for anybody who wants to look at it. It is called People to People Solidarity: Southern/South-East Europe. It is full of stories of people—not necessarily the refugees but people across Europe who are helping the refugees trying to cross Europe. People in this country are collecting, making and buying stuff to send over there, which was the original purpose of the site. Some are organising transport in vans, not to Calais any longer but to Croatia, Slovenia and to wherever they think it is necessary; other people are flying to Greece and going to Lesbos. Some are volunteer drivers, others are going to provide help and support for people, and others are medical people who are going to give medical advice. There is a huge, spontaneous movement in this country of people who are trying to help.
Coordinating Efforts to help Syrian Refugees
However, one theme that comes across by reading the huge amount of experiences, questions and discussion on this Facebook site is that there is a lack of co-ordination, support and help for people trying to do their best. This at least is perhaps something the Government might look at doing rather better than they are doing at the moment. At present these people are on their own, doing their best, working together and with some NGOs, and they appear to me to be getting no support and help from the Government.
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