Scots aid worker speaks about ‘forgotten’ refugees

Discarded life-jackets litter the beach at Chios after 64 refugees arrived on this flimsy-looking boat. Photograph: Simona Cheli
Discarded life-jackets litter the beach at Chios after 64 refugees arrived on this flimsy-looking boat. Photograph: Simona Cheli
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A Scots aid worker has spoken out about the “forgotten” refugees arriving from war-torn countries into Europe, claiming the world has become “bored of this catastrophe”.

Andy Nixseaman, from the Black Isle, who worked on the Greek island of Chios for the past two years with his wife, Fran, before returning to Scotland this summer, has gone back to the island for three weeks to help coordinate a planning team working to help refugees.

He said seven boats containing more than 350 people – mainly women and children – had arrived on Chios this week alone.

Nixseaman, who spent two months in Turkey earlier this year to work with refugees there, said: “The world is bored of this catastrophe, so the media does not cover it. The politicians do not talk about it. The NGOs (non-governmental organisations) do not try to soften the pain. But please be under no illusion, it is still going on.

“People still flee war, whether it is on the news or not. There have been seven boats arrived in Chios in the past 60 hours, mostly families, mostly from Syria. All cold. All wet. All scared. All people.”

International volunteers who work with the Chios Eastern Shore Response Team, meet the boats when they land, often in the middle of the night and clean the beaches afterwards, in a bid to reduce bad feeling from local people. Many of the refugees are ill or injured – sometimes as a result of their harrowing journey.

Nixseaman added: “On the last boat, there was one very old sick lady, one man with paralysis from a broken back which had happened a long time ago. There were three who had ingested sea-water and one pregnant lady.”

Chios is home to more than 3,000 refugees from countries including Syria and Iraq, many of whom are living in tents.

Nixseaman, who has rented out his home in the Highlands to fund his time on Chios, said many refugees were having to wait for months or even years to find out if their case for asylum in Europe would be accepted.

He said: “They are moving on slowly, to Athens or deported back to Turkey, but it takes months and they live in fear. You can be called in for the results of your application and you may think you have a great case, but be detained on the spot as you are going to be deported.

“I know people who have been here since the deal with Turkey in March last year, who still don’t know if they will get asylum or be deported.”

Donations can be made at: https://www.youcaring.com/chios-east-shore-rescue-team-517584