The 450 residents at the Oinofyta Accommodation Center never asked to be here. They were just passing through Greece, most of them, on their way to more northern European countries like Germany, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, Belgium or one of the Scandinavian countries. The timing of the closing of borders was bad for them, and they remained here in Greece.
Some of them left camp on foot with smugglers. Some made it and some were stopped and returned. Then the last border closed in Hungary.
Some left camp by plane with false passports - I've heard upwards of 4,000 euros per person (about $4500). Some made it from the Athens airport, but then security was ramped up. Then some made it by flying first from a Greek island and then to Europe. I'm thinking someone at Oinofyta found a good smuggler, and word of mouth is the best advertising.
Yesterday I heard that a resident who made it to Luxembourg, when applying to register in that country, had their fingerprints matched from earlier ones taken in Greece, and is being returned to Greece. I suspect that will happen more often as the rest of the EU finds ways to curb the influx of refugees.
So, where will they go from here?
Some vulnerable families are being provided with apartments in Athens where they can receive the extra help they need. One of our families left camp last week and is now living in an apartment in the city.
Many of the Oinofyta residents will apply for asylum in Greece and make a new life in this country.
Do Your Part, the nonprofit organization I volunteer for here in Greece, will now provide train fare for people wanting to take classes in Athens. Any classes. Greek and English instruction is an excellent first step. One of our residents, a welder in Afghanistan, took Greek classes here and has now been hired by a local company as a welder. He rides his bicycle eight miles every day to work at the town just north of Oinofyta.
Camp coordinator Lisa announced the educational opportunity at last Friday's community meeting. A resident goes to class and gets a letter from the school confirming their enrollment. Do Your Part then provides money for the train ticket - 70 euros for a monthly pass. Since Friday, at least five people have decided to go to school. That will be a good thing not only for the educational and professional opportunity, but for a way to get out of the camp environment where they wait for something to happen.
If you're interested in helping a refugee get to school, you can donate to doyourpart.org and specify the donation is toward a train pass for school.
Meanwhile, a few mischievous residents jumped on the roof of our office trailer this weekend. There's an open strip in the roof now, and it's expected to rain early tomorrow morning. I believe it will be fixed with a sprayed-on foam insulation. Hopefully before the rain arrives.
A Long Ride, Safe Landing
8 hours ago