Pikpa camp and the silver sea

Sitting on a cold metal chair at Mytilene airport. It’s unbelievably close to the sea. From where I’m perched, I’d say it’s not more than forty metres to the water’s edge. No space for a tired pilot to make even the teeniest mistake!

There was a lot of activity on the silvery early morning sea, as seen from the airport bus. A oontainer ship on the horizon, several one-man fishing boats bobbing around close to the shore, and a bigger boat which I think was Frontex gliding steadily in the direction of the airport, which is where the refugees tend to land. They come in at night, apparently attracted to this area by the airport lights.

I spent yesterday visiting Pipka camp, which is a couple of kilometres from here. It was started by local Greeks in 2012, on the site of a former children’s summer camp. An idyllic spot, sheltered by tall pines that provide shade and a carpet of pine needles under foot, it must be the optimum place to be sent as a refugee. You have to be deemed ‘vulnerable’. There is space for 120, and the accommodation is timber huts and a few very sturdy-looking UN type shelters, bigger and better than tents. There’s a kindergarten for small children, which takes Greek kids as well as refugee kids; a school for older kids; sports areas, a gym, a vegetable garden, play areas, and easy access to the beach. And the place is run – by a mixture of Greeks and internationals – with an amazing ethos of respect and sensitivity. Part of the point of Pikpa is to try to show how refugee reception can be done – that it doesn’t have to be done the way it is in Moria camp. I found it inspiring.

And last night I went to a party on the beach to celebrate Kurdish New Year, New Roz, with singing and dancing around a fire. Brilliant.