MFA Field Report from Greece

March 16, 2016

Please read this report by Shadi Martini, MFA Senior Syria Advisor.

 

Helpless in a Sea of Mud

Crossing into Greece took me two minutes because I had the right passports.  I needed to get to Idomeni, where 14,000 refugees are now stuck.

You need to be on the frontline here to realize what’s going on, as I did when I got within one mile of this Greek border town.  First, you see people with green raincoats walking on the side of the road.  As you continue on, you begin to see a mass of small camping tents dotting the horizon.

It had been raining and cold for days.  We came prepared for the miserable weather, but not so for the thousands who were out there.  The field they now called “camp” was a sea of mud. The people looked like survivors of a ship wreck, marooned on an island for years.  You couldn’t help notice that on their feet, socks had been replaced by plastic bags.

I was looking for a woman whose father I knew.  He was one of the lucky Syrian refugees who resettled in the U.S. with his wife and daughters -- but not this daughter.  She was 21, and the mother of a baby and a toddler.  When I located her and managed to talk to her by phone, she asked for one thing: dry clothing for her children.  I got to our meeting place and found her in the car of a journalist I know.  He kept the car heater on so she and her children could sleep; something they hadn’t done in two days because it was too cold in the tents.

I waited for her to wake up to give her the clothing she asked for, along with much-needed supplies and some toys for her children.  Accompanied by the aid organization I was with, we then started giving out whatever supplies we brought with us, people surrounded us: “Sir, my child needs pants, boots, socks, underwear, etc."  No one asked for himself.  All asked for someone else, mostly their children.

People gathered around us when they heard us speak Arabic.  “Do you know what’s going to happen to us?”  “Will they open the borders?”  To those who are seeing this horrific problem first-hand, it is clear that the solution is resettlement.

As the Senior Syria Advisor for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), a project of Tanenbaum and the nation’s leading interfaith response to the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, I support the stringent security process in place in the U.S. However, it should be noted that of the 750,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. this century, only three have been arrested for terrorist related activities. None were Syrian.

These desperate, shivering refugees must be helped for their sake and for ours to prevent some of them from falling to ISIS.  Canada, Germany and Sweden have admitted hundreds of thousands of refugees.  Now it is up to one of the world's largest democracy, the USA, to follow its tradition of admitting the oppressed so they can, using their skills and abilities, rise and contribute to the American way of life. We cannot bury our souls in the Mud of Idomeni.
 
Shadi Martini
March 16, 2016

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