A ferry on the way to Lesbos

What is a crisis? Is it when daily life is marked by abnormal situations in which absurdity and violence take place and change our lives? A crisis and its management can create instability in  our relationship with humanity. Today, this is what we are experiencing, as both witnesses of a crisis situation and  actors of change.

Sunday, we meet in the port of Athens to wait for the ferry that will take us to the island of Lesbos. We meet Sehrat in the port waiting room which has become an improvised shelter for more than 400 women, men, and children. Sehrat, his wife and three children have been blocked there for three days, prevented from reaching Athens.

Sehrat comes from Iraqi Kurdistan. He fled from the war, the bombings and other human rights atrocities. Today, for geopolitical reasons which exceed the bounds of imagination, Sehrat has prepared himself to spend his fourth night in the hall. Like many people here, Sehrat's face shows a resigned exhaustion and a complete misunderstanding of the situation. Waiting for the next step of a journey that began more than a month ago, they do not know whether a “transit or waiting camp" awaits them. Sehrat and his family have been blocked for several days in Lesbos, waiting for the permission to join continental Europe. Their journey will stop here for now, in Piraeus.

A new ferry arrives from Lesbos with over a thousand refugee families on board. Many of them are oriented towards buses in direction to transit and waiting camps in Athens and the surroundings, whereas others join Sehrat and his family in the already crowded waiting rooms. Old people, children and parents will attempt to recover from a grueling ferry trip in the noise and in the promiscuity inherent in these reception facilities.

That is why we are going to Lesbos. It is early in the morning, and as we approach the island we can see the Greek Coast Guard and Frontex (European border guards) ships conducting rescue missions in the waters between Turkey and Greece.

That morning, we helplessly witness the consequences of closing the European borders. We are passengers on the ferry sailing a few hundred meters from people trying to cross the Aegean in inflatable boats. Watching is all that we can do as some of the boats call the coast guards for help or try to reach the Greek beaches by themselves, where remains of the shipwrecks pile up.

Our arrival in Moria camp only reinforces our concern and incomprehension vis-à-vis this situation. The very first place where refugees are welcomed in Europe is a former prison that has lost neither its barbed wire fences nor its old operating methods. That is the reason we took the ferry today. With the Ideas Box, deployed by Libraries Without Borders, we are hoping, if only for an instat, to allow everyone to escape the hard reality of brick walls and barbed wire fences of Moria.