Greece (MNN) — When given warning, refugees only have 1-2 hours to leave their homes before death–or something worse–becomes a reality.
And as refugees take flight, Greece is being overwhelmed by the amount of people entering Europe through its shores. Greece has already been in a rough place financially, and the stress of providing for thousands of refugees has made the situation more dire.
Al Goff with Global Aid Network (GAiN) explains, “It’s not just Arabs from Iraq and Syria. It’s Afghans, it’s even people coming from Libya, and Algeria, and other places…and Pakistanis trying to come to Greece for the same thing. [They’re] trying to go into the rest of the European Union, [but] other countries are only letting certain groups through.”
When refugees first arrive in Greece, they often arrive at refugee camps, where GAiN is stationed, on the island of Lesvos (Lesbos).
“The refugee camps…are basically staging sessions. [Refugees] come in…soaking wet, they’ve come with nothing…they’re rescued out of the sea and then taken into camps. These are basically holding camps from anywhere up to 24 hours,” Goff said.
In the camps, volunteers help make sure refuges are warm and have dry clothing and food to stabilized them before they journey to Greece’s mainland. Then, they’re put on ferries headed to Athens where they’ll be better processed. But it’s in Athens where problems arise.
The Real Problem
Goff explains, “They start getting processed as refugees or migrants to determine what their nationality is. Many are arriving without papers: no passport, [nothing] that would identify who they are and verify their claims that they’re a migrant or refugee. So it’s really difficult for the international community who’s trying to help these people to help in a good way and in a timely fashion.”
Why don’t these people have proper documentation? It can’t be that hard to grab your birth certificate, a driver’s license, passport, or something else to prove you are who you claim to be.
“Many times…they’re passing through checkpoints where everything is taken away from them. We’ve even met people whose gold teeth were pulled out of their head before they walked out. They weren’t allowed to carry out any money. Basically they got out with the clothes on their back,” Goff says.
When these terrorist groups come in, Goff says it’s a situation of “run for your life”–especially for women, children, and young girls. The consequences of staying are too horrific.
“In the Middle East, it’s really bad. I can see why they’re trying to get to Greece,” says Goff. “They’re basically living in squalor. They’re trying to get to safety. The situation there is extreme in terms of some of the situations they’re walking into.”
For the majority, most refugees want to return home, not travel on to Europe. But eventually it becomes clear there is no going home. There’s only moving forward.
To help, GAiN is working with partner organizations under the Greek organization, Euro Relief, by providing volunteers in the camps for shift work. There are three separate shifts, which combined, cover a 24-hour cycle.
During the cycle, volunteers help feed refugees, provide comfort, and share hope in efforts to help refugees rest before they leave for Greece’s mainland. The work gives volunteers a rare opportunity to share the Gospel first hand while simultaneously sharing the love of Christ through their actions.
Goff explains, “These are people who are very vulnerable, and we don’t ever want to spiritually abuse them, or be in a position of power and really do it badly.”
Because these refuges have been abused by their own governments, countrymen, and the people paid to transport them to Greece, when someone shows them love or kindness, they’re curious. They ask “why.”
“Oh my goodness do they ask. And you know, there’s a wonderful story we tell them…I’m here because I work for a refugee and He sent me to help you. We tell them the story of Jesus, the story of when [Herod was] trying to kill Him, and His family took him to another country, to Egypt, to get Him to safety,” says Goff.
How to Help
You can be someone who helps share Christ’s story and love. GAiN is in need of manpower from volunteers who are willing to travel to Greece for weeks or even months to help. To learn more about volunteering, click here.
If traveling isn’t a possibility right now, please pray for the safety and providence of these refugees. Pray for the work of the Gospel in their lives. But also pray for the work of the Gospel in the hearts of those from ISIS and others who seek to destroy.
Finally, GAiN needs financial support to continue buying supplies and caring for the refugees in Greece. Would you be willing to consider donating? Any amount helps.
To donate, click here.
To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-778-7806, and ask to speak to GAiN’s humanitarian outreach.