Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Day 4

 Text message at 11pm "be ready at 8:45 for pick up". And so we are. 
We drive to the camp and pick up a Greek psychologist. She explains that she works with the unaccompanied minors and helps them reunite with their families or find a home. She tells us many of the kids come alone so that they ask for help when they arrive and the agencies help the family come over. It's a cheeky way of getting everyone to arrive to Europe. 
We get to the camp but there's a man outside that can't stand up. He is complaining about his feet. Christos, the nurse with us, calls an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He needs an x-ray. 
After one hour outside the camp we try to get in. We can't. There's a lockdown because of the crown pushing against the gate. We have to go all around the camp to try and get through another gate. We are told the prime minister of Greece will come and visit today. I think "he chose the best day!".
We manage to go inside the camp. There's chaos outside but inside its quiet. The queue for registration is moving, although slowly. We spend the next hour doing nothing. Just getting used to the place. Then a woman that is in front of the medical office faints, with a kid in her arms. I take the kid in my arms as the doctors take her. I take the kid to the clothes room and change his diaper and clothes. He was soaking wet. He was around 8 months old. Jack was choosing clothes for him and guessing what would fit. We clean the baby's face and when we took him to the office very one laughed saying it was like a new baby. The kid was happy. The mum was too. They go and join the queue for registration.
Another hour and we have nothing to do. Then the day starts to get very very hot when the clouds clear and people start to feel sick in the sun. We start to fill in as many bottles of water as we can. I ask Jack for help but he is having an argument with a policeman. I dot understand what's happening. Then people start pushing against the gate because the people at the back of the queue are pushing them. People start feeling very bad. Some start to faint. I go back and now there's three policeman screaming at Jack. I go over to see what's happening. Jack saw a policeman spitting at the refugees as decided to photograph it. The policeman freaked out and was demanding the photos to be deleted. Jack is trying to report the guy for his behaviour. More policeman come and defend what the first one did. I ask Jack to quiet down because everyone is agitated and not being rational. Jack gives him the film with the photos. He goes. A few minutes later we discuss the subject and I tell Jack I think he should apologise and make peace because everyone here is indeed trying to help. He agrees with me. He goes over and apologises to the policeman for being agitated and screaming. The policeman says "I don't want you to think I'm an animal. I'm not. I'm human. My parents were refugees too. I understand these people. But there's so many and it's out of control. What are we supposed to do when 6 000 people arrive in one day? I understand them. I'm ashamed of what I did but I lost control. I'm sorry too" and shook Jack's hand.
 We turn to the other situation. A man has a fit in the middle of the crown, outside the gate. The police wants to help but if we open the gate to get him everyone will try to go in. Some policeman screams really loud and everyone steps back. I call a doctor and Jack. The three of us go out and pick him up by the arms and legs. There's many photographers taking pictures. None helping. We bring him in. The doctor takes him. The police can't close the gate. There's too many people getting in. People stepping on each other. They think that if they get through this gate they can register and that means they can get on a boat to Athens. But this is just a side gate. It won't take them to the registration. The police finally close the gate. We analyse the situation. There's a few people fainted on the floor. We take them to the side. The doctors tells me to check for pulse on a few people. I could see them breathing, but I cannot feel a pulse. I lack experience and knowledge. I put a few people in the recovery position. Their family members are scared. I try to smile and say they will be ok. I tell them I'm a doctor. I lied. But it does the trick. They calm down. 
Then we hear screaming and the police going mad. More people fainting. It's non stop. I lost count. We have to bring them through the gates. There's kids too. And grandmothers. I think it was around 70 people in the space of an hour. We had to open other areas of the camp to accommodate it. It was so hot. I too thought many times I was about to faint. We give water, we put people in recovery position, we reassure everything will be ok. And then we realise all these people think they just jumped the queue Because they are in the doctors area. We don't have the heart to tell them they may need to go to the end f the queue when they feel better. People tart jumping the barbed wire fence. It's a tall fence. And with really sharp wire. There's blood and cuts. Jack takes a translator to tell these people that there's no point jumping the fence because this is not the registration place. There's no point. They jump anyway. We finally get a translator to tell everyone (around 150 people) that they need to join the queue again and leave the area we took them to when they fainted. Many people grab as and beg us not to let that happen. We have no choice. There's a mother crying saying she lost her daughter. She's about to have a panic attack so I lie and promise I know where the daughter is and I will get her. I shouldn't say this and I know it. I ask for the girl's name and leave to do something else. A bit later the mother calls me again and asks about her daughter and tells me the last place she saw her. I ask for the girl's name again and go to the area she thinks the girl is in. I scream and call for her a few times. I find her. I reunite her with the family. Made my day! Yay! 
We now have to get all these people to understand that they are not in the queue if they stay in this area. Some understand and ask to leave. Things start to quiet down. I advise some families to stay in the area an get some rest. It's not amazing but at least is closed and shaded. There's water and toilets. They seems to listen. 
I head to the closed office. I can feel the adrenalin rush passing. My head feels heavy and my eyes want to shut. I am happy when Christos says it's time to finish our shift. It's 6pm and we have been here 9 hours. It's time to go.  

If there's one thing I want everyone reading this to remember is: we are all trying to help. We do what we can. It's so hard though. Everyone is so tired. Both refugees and workers. The police are trying so hard. They work 24 h a day at the registration office and controlling the crown that keeps getting bigger and bigger. The doctors work non stop to stitch people's hands because they jumped the fence or whatever else. The refugees just travelled over the sea to reach safety. They have been standing in the sun for over 2 days waiting to get the papers that gives them the right to board the ferry. They have no food , no shade, sometimes they have water. Everyone is trying to help. We just do what we can. Is it enough? I don't know, but we will keep on trying. 

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