A storm in the Aegean
I’m sitting in my airbnb cottage, which is out on the coast to the south of Mytilini, listening to the wind gusting around the building. Rain is forecast for tomorrow and it sounds like a storm is blowing up.
This morning a wooden boat carrying refugees capsized off the coast of the island of Agothonisi, which is some way south of here. The reports vary, but it seems that six or seven children including a baby girl, seven men and two women drowned. Two women and a man made it to the beach.
Today there was a demonstration to mark the second anniversary of the EU-Turkey Agreement. That was the hurriedly negotiated deal in March 2016 when EU countries got together with the aim of stopping the flow of refugees from Turkey into Europe via Greece. It has been shockingly successful, in that the numbers have reduced drastically over the last two years. It provides for Greece to detain new arrivals from certain countries and deport refused asylum seekers to Turkey.
Most of the people at the demo were refugees, international volunteers and activists. People spoke from the platform in Arabic, Greek, French and English. There was a good feeling, but everyone knows the western world is weary of thinking about refugees. A year ago, there were two thousand people on the demo for the first anniversary. Today I think there were about three hundred. People are very open and friendly. I spoke with a Congolese refugee (there are lots of men here from Congo), a Greek woman communist of about my age, a young Belgian volunteer who runs a camp, a young French woman who takes groups of refugees running, and a couple of Germans who get up at four in the morning to watch out for new refugee boats arriving, on the north coast.