THE BLOG

Encounters in Kos; The Pain of the Boat People

23/09/2015 15:49 BST | Updated 23/09/2016 10:12 BST

Today we have a pre-eid celebration for the families in the hotel. Cake, balloons, toys and so much food. It is beautiful. Most, not all, are relaxed for now and allow themselves to feel happiness.

I chatted, through crude sign language with an older guy from Syria with his 3 children and wife. He was lovely, there was no common language, but he was clearly a kind and gentle soul. Later, one of our volunteers told me she had to verbally fight with a tourist in a car she had stopped to take him to town. He has only one leg and had just climbed off a boat in the aftermath of a storm (taxis have been told they are not allow to take refugees here).

The importance of this Eid celebration cannot be stressed enough- to have some time to feel normal and smile. On top of their stories and situations, a relentless epic day and a half storm has battered the guys tents, soaked all their little belongings, chilled them to the bone and crushed a lot of morale.

The storm brought masses of lost dinghys and life jackets washed up on the shore. At 2am last night we were still clearing up all their blankets and belongings to be dried for tomorrow, and against the haunting storm sky and lighting flashes there was a light in ocean, clearly an emergency beacon from a boat that had captised in the night.

Despite the storm, boats still came. Around 12 men had their boat capsize and they had to swim the remaining 3km (how they did this is beyond me). A boat of 3 Iranian families miraculously made it. It is not worth thinking about the number of boats that did not make it.

Then there was the young Syrian woman, around 19year, who lost her husband in the sea the night before last. She was trying to hold it together for an interview to send out to the other islands in the hope he arrived there. And a young guy desperately searching for his 17yr friend who's boat of 10 went missing. Just a couple of the stories of the fates the oceans bring here.

The Kos authorities also are partial to put undocumented migrants in jail when they do something they don't like, such as the 17yr old kid who's reasons for being there are a bit hazy. One father was put in jail 4 days ago after he tried boarding the ship to Athens without a ticket. His wife and 3 kids had tickets but he didn't. His youngest kid has a heart condition which could be fatal if not operated on, and the mother and kids are waiting for him to be released before they as they don't want to loose him, and split up the little family they have here.

At least the sun is shining now, and spirits have picked up after the epic storms and the unspoken number of boats that will have been lost last night in the turbulent seas.

And people are often so so happy to be here. One Pakistani almost cried with happiness when he said to me he was been in Turkey for 2 years, trapped in Bodrum for weeks, and he said not one Turkish person will speak to you and recognise you as human, and here on Kos, they are so many open faces that give him attention and smiles. So many people have looks of relief on their faces and eyes I have never seen before, as they reach land and Europe after hours in water in dodgy overloaded dinhgys. For this, we try to not talk too much about what they face in Eastern Europe- except for practical advise. Let them keep the joy and safety in their minds and hearts for now.