It has become almost a term of abuse; ‘You—You—Economic Migrant, You!’ but what is so sinful about travelling in search of a better life? Have not successive British governments — especially Conservative ones — advised that, if you haven’t got a job, you should get on your bike and go and look for one? Is it, perhaps, a case of ‘Two wheels good, boats bad?’ It hasn’t, of course, (heaven forfend!) anything to do with nationality or skin colour.
Anyway, this little Greek island has become a staging-post on their frightful journey. They are dumped on one of the neighbouring deserted islands and told ‘You’re in Greece,’ which, technically, they are; but they might as well be in the middle of the Gobi desert. No food, no water, no shelter. Sooner or later they are noticed by a passing fishing-boat, and the coastguard goes and rescues them, bringing them here, where they wait in the amphitheatre near the town hall, before being taken to the mainland later that day, or perhaps the next. There, they are ‘processed’ — I don’t quite know what this entails — and then pushed out onto the streets. The special refugee centres are overfull and can take no more.
I am pleased to say that their brief time in this little island has become a sort of holiday for them; they probably have a better time here than they have had, or will have, for a long time. First of all, as soon as news gets out, people rush down with food and clothes. Then, if they are here for more than a few hours, a big communal meal is prepared for them. Any in urgent need of medical attention get it.
Today yet another bunch arrived. The previous group of 50-odd only left the day before yesterday. This group, like the others, has been generously treated; plenty of food and clothing was brought for them. The group, this time, included a fair number of very young, very bewildered children; my young friend Anastasia had the imagination to take them what she no longer needs — her teddy-bears.