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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Reception Centre to support refugees at remote lighthouse on Lesvos.

I am very pleased to report on Eurobishop this significant project outlined below. I take this from the website of Us, the mission agency with whom we have been working in recent months, with regard to the refugee crisis. The actual Us material is on their website here.

I cannot speak highly enough of this partnership with Us which has been vital in enabling our Church to respond to the crisis, particularly in Greece.

The Diocese in Europe and the Anglican mission agency Us (formerly USPG) are to give funding to an emergency centre for refugees at the remote Pharos Lighthouse on the Greek island of Lesvos.

The refugees arrive cold and wet having crossed 15 kilometres from Turkey, typically making the journey in small rubber boats crowded with up to 50 people in each. Many make this dangerous crossing at night to avoid the Turkish coastguards that patrol during the day. They come mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan having fled conflict, chaos and persecution in those countries.

Attracted by the lighthouse beam, the refugees that land on the rocky shore are soaked through, tired and hungry. Yet they are still six kilometres from the nearest village, Klio, which is a minimum six-hour walk across often-difficult terrain. It is therefore essential for the health of the refugees that they have dry clothes, food and, in many cases, medical care and shelter before they continue their journey to safety, preferably with a volunteer to act as a guide.

A dedicated team of local volunteers have been doing what they can to help the refugees. Now the work is to be given a further boost with funding from Us and support from the Anglican chaplaincy in Greece.

Relief work is 'critical and well-targeted'

Refugee expert Max McClellan, who is working with Us and the Diocese in Europe, said: ‘The work of the lighthouse team is critical and well-targeted. They operate along a large stretch of rocky coastline, typically at night, receiving the refugees in boats. But, given the current level of arrivals, they are looking to expand their operation as quickly as possible. It is clear that the situation on Lesvos is much more chaotic than we have been led to believe.’ He added: ‘Large organisations and agencies rely on the goodwill of volunteers for much of the ground-work, particularly at the points of first reception at the shore.’

Two abandoned buildings next to the lighthouse will be renovated and converted into a clothes-changing area and a field kitchen. There will also be tents to provide shelter for refugees and volunteers. Volunteers will begin working at the centre round the clock, seven days a week.

As well as providing refugees with food, clothing and medicines, volunteers will be supplied with ropes to help refugees climb up the rocky shores, and safety helmets and headgear for children and babies. There is also a need for wetsuits, night vision binoculars, heaters, lighting and walky-talkies.

Bishop David Hamid, of the Diocese in Europe, said: ‘I am deeply grateful for our partnership with Us in this project, which in many ways is reviving a historic link between Us and our European churches. The Anglican Church in Greece is joining hands with Us to serve those who are fleeing wars and persecution, and who risk their lives in desperation to reach Europe in what many have called “the death boats”. ‘This project places our church on the frontline where so many have already died through drowning, and seeks to bring a level of human dignity to our brothers and sisters who are seeking refuge and safety.’

Rachel Parry, Us Director for Global Relations, said: ‘This initiative is a small but highly significant response that is benefitting hundreds of very vulnerable refugees at a critical stage of their journey. It is just one example of how we are working in partnership with the Anglican chaplaincy in Athens to reach out to refugees.’

You can support this work by making a donation to the Us Advent Appeal.

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