Most of us are familiar with the disorientation you feel arriving in a foreign country. Maybe it’s the language, or that blast of heat (or cold) as you get off the plane. But it can take a little while to find your feet on foreign soil.
Those refugees arriving in dinghies on the Greek island of Lesvos are no different. Many speak no Greek, and have only what possessions they can carry.
They may have been separated or even lost loved ones on their journey. Many have fled violence and conflict.
But a Red Cross radio show is helping many refugees when they arrive in Greece.
The Walkie-Talkie Information Service is a 20-minute news bulletin in Arabic and Farsi. It focuses on useful information that can make things a little easier for people on their journeys.
The programmes are played inside transit sites to help people navigate and access Red Cross services such as family tracing and health clinics.
Language barriers can be a challenge here for Greek volunteers from our partners, the Hellenic Red Cross.
In the past the volunteers put up posters but they were often ineffective in reaching the masses.
That’s why the Red Cross teamed up with the local radio station. Radio is the best way of making sure everyone knows about the services available to them.
The idea has been so successful a new series is in production that not only includes one-way information on services for migrants, but also stories, voices and issues raised by the migrants themselves.
‘They are like me’
For volunteer Nikos Savvas, these interviews have had a profound effect:
“They tell us their terrible stories of war and fighting in their countries. Such stories I could not even imagine. I cannot believe the other worlds people have had to face before coming here.
“For me the young 18-year-old man who used poetry to calm him on his journey was very powerful. I think hearing this and hearing his poem will help other people,” says Nikos.
Nikos started volunteering with Red Cross two years ago. He visited a safe house on the island where migrants would stay on their travels.
“I would go with my Mum and distribute clothes to them,” he says. “Now though, by going and speaking to them and interviewing them I see them differently.
“They are like me. They want to help one another and live in a better world.”
Local radio journalist Afroditi Stavraki teamed up with Nikos on the project:
“I’ve given clothes and blankets to refugees passing through my home town of Mytilini. I also talk about the many issues affecting the refugees and my neighbours here on my own radio show.
“But interviewing them for the Walkie Talkie programmes has moved me – it has affected my emotions.”
Hear more from Afroditi and Nikos
- Meet the children of Idomeni waiting at a border camp in northern Greece.
- Please donate to our Refugee Crisis Appeal to support our relief work.
Impact of the EU-Turkey deal
Since this blog was written the conditions for migrants in Greece has profoundly changed as a result of the deal struck between the EU and Turkey on 18 March 2016.
Migrants who arrived ‘irregularly’ after 20 March 2016 to Greek islands are now held in a situation of detention, with their freedom of movement curtailed.
The thousands who arrived before the agreement but after the Balkan route closure are not subject to the conditions of the deal. They remain in open camps and centres across greater Athens and northern Greece and are living in extremely poor conditions.
We believe the current conditions for migrants in Greece pose grave risks to their health and well-being, including their mental health.
Images © Jarkko Mikkonen / Finnish Red Cross.