I’m sitting in the canteen at work, struggling my way through a headline in an old copy of Al Quds, an Arabic newspaper. It’s ten years since I last used Arabic regularly, but the language is coming back, little by little…I often wonder exactly where in my brain the words have been stored. And why is it that for some words, I only have to hear them once in order to re-establish them in my working vocabulary, whereas for other words it requires a conscious effort and lots of repetition.
I am leaving on Saturday. Originally my plan was to go to Lesvos to help with refugees arriving by sea. Now that the EU has made its deal with Turkey, very few boats are arriving and the occupants are being taken straight to a detention camp. Refugees who arrived before the 20 March deadline are taken by ferry to Athens, from where, in theory, they will be taken to reception centres while their asylum claims are considered. I’ve arranged to go up to the Macedonian border, where there is still a spontaneous camp of around 12,000, of whom 4,000 are children. They are waiting for Macedonia to open the border, which it closed over a month ago. From the photos I’ve seen the conditions look terrible. It’s been raining a lot and there are almost no facilities. The Greek authorities are trying to persuade people to get on buses and go to other reception centres, but most refuse.