Blood Moon Escape

Here is the next chapter of my story and I'll start it by saying that I now regret not having written it all down immediately because the situation seems to change with every passing moment!

Last night when I got to the beach I was anxiously scanning the sky for a shooting star in order to make a very calculated wish. I arrived late, having rushed down to Moria in the evening when the news finally reached me: "the refugees have taken over Moria!" The daily fights which break out in the 400 meter-long food line were exceptionally bloody and riots had started later in the day when police allegedly beat children as they were trying to break out of their safe play-zone. The police fled the camp to regroup and one registration office was burnt to the ground as all out war broke out between rival groups. Nationalism is rife even in this grey zone where everyone waits to know if they are inside or outside of Europe's legal prerogative. By the time I arrived, the access roads were blocked by riot police and my presence felt awkward at this morbid hidden spectacle. Four of us drove 45 minutes home in silence, confused and sad on our way to take up our posts on the night watch.

On an abandoned beach amid suffocating darkness my phone started ringing with a call from a friend on the inside. Her distressed voice told me that a group of men holding rocks and other crude weapons were outside their tent threatening to kill everyone inside and burn the tent to the ground because they hadn't joined the fight against the police, who were now nowhere to be seen. They had all of their possessions in hand and were frozen in fear until the rocks started flying. Then there was a lot of screaming on the other end of the phone and it went dead.

Freedom Party?

It has been a very busy week since my last update which left me at a cliff-hanger ending, waging a legal battle with papers and pens and basic information about the asylum procedure and charging through the front gates of Moria. Spoiler alert: I still haven't made it into Moria! I tried for a few days, arriving at the front gate relatively proper, sporting a collared shirt and a list of names & contact details of my Morian friends ('clients') that I kept in an old brief case found in the CK team warehouse. I told the guards I was there to provide counseling services to people who had requested them, as is their right under the Asylums Procedures Directive. I brought that directive with me in case there was any confusion. They told me to come back later, to talk to a chief of police who wasn't there, to arrange a meeting with Anthi Karangeli of the interior ministry (the so-called dragon lady who runs Moria) without any information about how to get in touch with her other than come back and talk to the next guard after the shift change. In many ways they told me to go away over and over again.

I went back to the gate with actual lawyers and even one supreme court lawyer from Lesbos and found that the situation at the gate was identical even for non-undercover-musicians. It's crazy. At the legal coordination meeting for advocacy groups working on the island, we heard similar stories, but most frightening was another fact which came to light in our discussion. There is no protocol, no set of procedures which the Greek Asylum Service is following and applying uniformly to everyone in the camp. Even if we could get into the camp to give advice, we don't know what we're preparing people for and the evidence we've seen so far in the form of rejection letters issued on the basis of inadmissability suggests some form of blanket expulsion that does not examine the merits of the cases in question. And so we wait. The pope came and went, everybody was fed for a couple days and the place got cleaned up a bit but now it's degrading back to its previous state of hunger, violence and disorder.

Undercover Hippy Legal Services (Lesbos Update #3)

It has now been 9 days since we had a boat landing on the north coast and I am busier than ever! Since we haven't been receiving boats, I've been reading a lot about EU asylum procedures, qualifications, and returns in my tent at night and I've been making more trips to Moria with my guitar in the daytime. Some really magical things are coming together.

Last week I met an incredible group of people who fled political violence in their home country. This was on the one day when I left in a hurry without my guitar and one of these new friends told me I needed to come back and bring it with me because everyone where they come from is a singer. We spent most of the next day singing in the shade of an olive tree that straddles the fence line of the detention camp and shared a beautiful musical moment that brought us closer together. In between songs they told me bits and pieces of stories that reflected the very reasons why the international community felt compelled to protect human dignity with legal instruments like the Geneva Convention or the European Convention on Human Rights. And in spite of horrible experiences like kidnapping, torture,  murder, and now this seemingly indefinite detention that none of us understood, we were smiling, laughing, singing, dancing, clapping, tapping and whistling out all the parts we couldn't remember in an olive grove on a Greek island thousands of miles away from home.

Update from Lesbos: My first night off!

Tonight is my first night off since I got to Lesbos so I'm taking advantage of it to give you another update. I've only been here for one week and already we've been nominated for a nobel peace prize and the pope is coming to visit! There is a NATO warship rumbling through the 10km wide channel between this Greek fishing village and the Turkish coast where I can see the lights flickering into the night. I can only imagine how tempting the view must be from the other side. I've spent the last 7 nights watching these lights from various campsites along the rugged northeast coast of the island waiting for boats to land. So far I haven't met any personally but every day is still very exciting here!

Medicins Sans Frontieres gives us 4x4s to drive down winding dirt roads that remind me a lot of the back country in BC. These roads lead to isolated places that were seeing 4 or 5 laindings each night when the traffic peaked. We are there to meet the boats, give first aid and coordinate transportation to an abandoned cheese factory that serves as a makeshift welcome center. There is a bit of a cat and mouse game going on with the local authorities but that's OK. In spite of everything we've heard about increased border security, nobody else is waiting along the coast at night and this brief moment we have to give them tea, dry clothes, medical attention and a crash course on EU asylum procedures is critical.

On my way to Lesbos!!!!

I'm on the night boat to Lesbos and should get there in about 7 hours. Two days ago when I got to Ancona I had no clue which boat to get on... Either the one for Igoumenitsa to get on a bus to Thessaloniki and then head up to Idomeni where there are 15000 refugees camped out next to the Macedonian border, or the boat to Patras to take the train to Athens and then another boat to Lesbos. It's a tough call because the situation is not as crystal clear as it seemed to me a month ago when I decided to come to Greece. When I decided to come, Lesbos was swarming with volunteers and international aid organizations that, to me at least, represented the open arms of human decency, bearing the fruit of compassion and welcoming war-torn families into a better world. Nobody asked these volunteer organizations to be there but they still came in great numbers to help refugees get off boats, feed them, warm them up, give them clean/dry clothes and help them find their way into a legal framework that was ready to accept them. That situation got turned on its head last week!
'Europe' doesnt really know how to accept all these refugees. It has a little bit to do with racism, a little bit to do with security, a little bit to do with concerns about integration, and a little bit to do with all the myths that drive a european dialog which is always about who is being unfairly asked to do more. The long and the short of it is that there is no coherent plan on what to do with an extra million or 3 million or 6 million people. The land route beyond Greece is closed and the feeling I got from talking to Greek people so far is that the country is in such a sorry state that they can't possibly help all these people even though they would love to. They feel ill-equipped to serve as Europe's waiting room.

Cougars in the Aegean

I've launched a crowd-funding campaign so I can go to Lesbos and help the volunteers there!!! Click HERE to check it out! Everyone who donates to the crowd-funding campaign gets a new EP called XENOPHILIA.