Until March 20, 2016, there were usually almost 200 hundred asylum seekers leaving for Athens every Thursday and Sunday from the Samos port. They had been registered and released from the detention camp where they had been held. Release meant the detention gates were opened for them and they had to leave. But they were given no ferry ticket to Athens, no food, and no Athens accommodation. This meant that once in Athens, many ended up sleeping in the park and on the street.

To begin the journey, men, women, children, young, old and feeble had to walk the almost 2-mile trek down a steep hill to get to the port. It didn’t matter if it was hot, cold, raining, or sunny. They were on their own, loaded down with huge plastic bags and backpacks stuffed with their meager belongings. Once at the port, and if they had a ferry ticket, they could enter the gated area. They were then ordered to crouch down in a line to wait their turn to enter the Athens-bound ferry. It could easily take an hour or more before they boarded.

Getting ready to board the ferry to Athens.

One Sunday morning I was at the dock working to distribute clothing and other items asylum seekers might need. Suddenly I heard a man behind me shouting, “Madam! Madam! Please! Please! One minute! One minute!” I turned to see a young man running towards me with a sheaf of papers in his hand. “Please can you help me? There are twelve of us who must go to Athens but we don’t have money for ferry tickets. Can you please buy tickets for us?” He was desperate. If they didn’t get tickets they would have to stay on Samos and sleep on the street. Fortunately, I had some money that had been donated by friends in the US. I told him I could buy tickets for all twelve men, which I did. I then asked them to gather together and I handed each a ticket.

The following is what they had to say:

Several Voices: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for the tickets. Thank you!

Sallie: You’re welcome. I am happy I could help you. But I would like to know why you left your home.

Man 1: Because of the bombs. They are killing us so we leave our home, our family, our country.

Sallie: How did you come here?

Man 1: I walked from Afghanistan Sa l lie: (speaking to another man): Did you walk, did you come on a bus, or with a car?

Man 2: No. No bus. Taxi.

Author Sallie with two Pakistani men who are about to board the ferry to Athens with the tickets she bought for them.

Man 1: Walk, just walk. Three days, just walk. Three days from Pakistan to the Turkey border.

Sallie: How much money did it cost you?

Man 2: $2,500, Turkey to Greece. But altogether from Pakistan to Greece is $6,000.00 U.S.

Sallie: $6,000? Everyone?

Man 2: Yes, yes.

Sallie: Was the smuggler good?

Man 2: No, no. So bad, so bad.

Sallie: Why? What happened?

Man 1: They are punching us. Punching me. Punching me. No food, No give food. No, give water. In the desert. Just running.

Sallie: Why were you running? Man 1: Because the Army, Turkey Army is killing us. We ran. We saved our lives to come here, in Greece.

Sallie: You mean the Turkish Army was following you?

Man 2: They were firing right at us. They were hitting us from the side at the Iran border. We were crossing the border and they were shooting at us, in the Dogobias area.

Sallie: You finally got in a boat crossing from Turkey. Tell me about that.

Man 2: We sat in a boat and the Turkey police took our boat and crashed it. Many refugees died in the Sallie with two Pakistani men who are about to board the ferry to Athens with the tickets she bought for them. Many times they crashed our boat. Many refugees are dying. But God saved us.

Sallie: When did you come?

Man 2: A month ago.

Man 3: A UN ship came to save us. They picked us up and took us to the camp. Sallie: Now you’re on your way to Athens?

Man 3: We stayed in the camp. Now we go to Athens to start a new life. To do any job, like any student. We all study.

Sallie: Are you all students?

Man 1: Some are students, some are workers, daily workers. We want to work, to study.

Sallie: I wish you good luck. I need to have your Facebook contact to stay in touch. Can you give it to me?

Man 1: Yes, Yes, I’ll send it.

Sallie: Hurry! Hurry! The ferry is going to leave. Goodbye! Good luck.

Update: As with all ferry departures, it was very sad to see these men take off. They had to go to Athens. They were so excited and so sure they would find work and be able to study there. But I had learned this was highly unlikely. I bought them their ferry tickets knowing they had little chance for the future they were seeking. I never heard from them again. I fear they were most probably arrested and sent back to Turkey or perhaps to Pakistan. My heart ached as I held back tears and watched them enter the ferry to an uncertain tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like