This Week in Restoring Family Links: 9/19/16/-9/23/16

Life jackets of lives lost at sea spread out in London. Photo Credit: Lora Moftah

Life jackets of lives lost at sea spread out in London. Photo Credit: Lora Moftah

Story by Sophia Fredericks, Social Engagement Intern, Washington D.C.

London: Outside of Parliament Square in London was a “graveyard of life jackets” to honor and raise awareness of refugees and migrants who perish at sea. These were the same life jackets worn by the refugees crossing from Turkey to the Greek Island of Chios. There are hopes that the 2500 life jackets, with 650 of them being worn by children, will urge international governments to address and take action to stop the crisis.

Those who took initiative to spread out the life jackets were campaigners of the International Rescue Committee, with the timing of this protest planned purposefully due to the United States Migration Summit occurring in New York. The Director of Policy at the IRC, Sanj Srikanthan, said that the protest was “meant to represent just some of the people who have died crossing the Mediterranean - refugees fleeing conflict just trying to get to safety.”

It is the hope of the IRC that its attempts of raising awareness for refugees will influence countries such as the UK or the United States in accepting refugees who need it the most.  The charity is also emphasizing acceptance of these refugees, but the need for more aid in investment, healthcare and education. Srikanthan also went on to emphasize the need to end and find solutions to the conflicts causing this type of migration. A statistic by the International Organization for Migration said that by the time 2016 comes to an end, it is estimated that there will be an increase of 10,000 lives lost at sea by migrants.

Volunteers of the Hellenic Red Cross youth team. Photo Credit: Anita Dullard, IFRC

Volunteers of the Hellenic Red Cross youth team. Photo Credit: Anita Dullard, IFRC

Greece: On Monday September 19th, a fire spread throughout the Island of Lesvos in Greece at a migration reception center, where unaccompanied children and teenagers were forced to flee. Members of the Hellenic Red Cross youth team volunteered to help where they provided phones and internet in order for children to get in touch with their loved ones.  

Gianna Giannokos, a Red Cross Volunteer who began volunteering at the start of the migration crisis, was just one of the many young volunteers who signed up to help refugees and migrants in Greece following the ongoing emergency. “These people have lost everything. I know it sounds very sentimental but I wanted to help,” said Giannokos. Another young volunteer, Eleftheria Alexandri, who is part of the Hellenic Red Cross’s relief distribution team, said “We try to keep the moral of migrants up, joking with them and trying to get a smile from the kids.”

There was significant damage to the camp following the fire. The Red Cross with the help of other humanitarian organizations worked to provide aid such as emergency supplies, shelter and psychological support to those in the community affected by this disaster. It is found that over 12,500 people arrived to the Greek-Islands after the EU-Turkey agreement was put into effect.

Those who immigrated to the Greek Islands still await their fate as to whether they will be sent back to Turkey. In the meantime, Red Cross volunteers are there to help. Giannokos who was promoted to volunteer coordinator of Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links program said “If I’m proud of one thing, it’s the volunteers. They’re all unique and ready to respond, which is why we are able to provide real help to migrants and refugees. We can’t exist without them.”