When I was in Leros in March, I don’t recall meeting anyone from Palestine. Now, there seem to be more Palestinians arriving than any other ethnicity. It’s interesting to speak with these individuals once they arrive at the Hub. If we track their timelines, they seem to all have left their homeland about a month prior to their arrival. They travel to Turkey, and then make their way over on boats to the Greek islands. By the time they reach us, a month has passed. This is just what I’ve encountered, obviously these are not hard facts.
As I posted in my last entry, there has been a large increase in new arrivals on this island. Many of these people are from Palestine. Our school has had a boom in the number of students attending, which is directly related to the conflict in Palestine. The idea of being only one degree removed from this conflict is oddly exhilarating. As conflict increases, the more crowded my classes get, possibly exactly one month later.
Less than a week ago, I was driving to work with another volunteer and she brought up the country of Yemen. We were both aware of the on going conflict/famine in Yemen, but we had never met a refugee that was from this country. It seemed peculiar to us, but once we looked more closely at a map, we could see the problem.
The conflict in Yemen is caused by Saudi Arabia. There isn’t a direct route out of Yemen without going through Saudi Arabia, especially in the direction of Greece.
Yesterday; however, I had an advanced English speaker sit down in one of my classes, tell me his name, and claimed to be from Yemen. Boom. I don’t know how this happened, but I look forward to hearing more from him in the days to come, if he’ll share with me.
The people from Cameroon were here on Leros during my first “go” here. There were also people from Burundi, Guinea, and Congo. There was a healthy population of people from Africa here. Now, they’ve all gone except for one. He was in my Beginner English class for the entirety of the three months I was on this island last time. He’s young, not yet twenty, and I was saddened to see that he was still here upon my return. I saw him first on the side of the road, walking to town from the Hotspot. When I had a chance to catch up with him, his English hadn’t improved drastically, but he was a bit more conversational than the last time I had seen him. He doesn’t know why he is still here and the rest of his friends have been allowed to move on. He’s a victim of the system, confused, uncertain about what his fate will be and why he’s been left behind. It’s strange to have my two experiences linked by someone being screwed over by the asylum system.