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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 5 March 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 5 MARCH 2016 19 GREECE From The Captain’s Table to the Starfish Foundation Australian Melinda McRostie and her family have devoted their lives to helping refugees on the island of Lesvos NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, "Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can't save all these starfish. You can't begin to make a difference!" The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, "Well, I made a difference to that one!". The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined and all the starfish were saved. - adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley Melinda McRostie is an Australian woman who has lived on the island of Lesvos for four decades, and she always refers to the story of the girl and the starfish to explain why she helps refugees with such self-sacrifice. She was only three years old in 1968 when her mum took her and her sister on a holiday to Greece. They never left. Lesvos became their home. In 1972 her mother remarried a Greek man named Giorgos and decided to move to Molyvos. The entire extended family followed. Molyvos is a beautiful, small and very picturesque town of fewer than 2,000 residents waving at the Turkish coast of Çanakkale, and is one of the Lesvos villages that receive the largest numbers of refugee landings, as it allows the shortest crossing from Turkey to Europe. Artist Ai Weiwei and Melinda McRoastie at her restaurant in Lesvos. The island received more than 100,000 refugees and migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries in 2015, when its population is reportedly under 85,000. "My mother and I opened a restaurant in Molyvos called Melinda's which turned out to be a huge success," said McRostie. "I met my husband Theo that year and he later joined the business. In 1994 Theo and I went out on our own and opened The Captain's Table in the harbour of Molyvos." It took one phone call from the coastguard a couple of years ago, asking her to provide food for some migrants who had just been saved from drowning, for her to become a humanitarian. Since then Melinda and her family have catered for thousands of souls, turning the rented land behind The Captain's Table into a hotspot for refugees. McRostie can fit up to 180 people on the land behind her restaurant, while her kitchen team prepares and offers up to three meals per person a day using food and supplies donated by tourists and locals. Her team does not only lead the distribution of food and water, but they collect clothes, toys, and shoes for arriving refugees. "When numbers started in- Melinda (fourth from left) with Starfish volunteers and actress and Voice ambassador of the International Rescue Committee Piper Perabo, who visited the island in mid-September. creasing rapidly in November 2014, the relief effort grew, and locals were joined by volunteers from all over the world," she explained. Help for Refugees in Moly- vos, the Facebook page McRostie manages, serves as an information centre for advocates, reporters, and potential volunteers considering a visit to Lesvos. In October last year, the volunteers in Molyvos founded the Starfish Foundation NGO to provide assistance to refugees, but also manage transit camp OXY, in which people are gathered before travelling onward to the island's capital Mytilini, where registration is done. Starfish Foundation has processed more than 200,000 people rescued by the coastguard. "Donations from tourists and volunteers from around the world all helped to make this possible,” said McRostie. “It's obvious that it's not something that's going to stop, so the only obvious thing is to do something about it. Together we can make a difference. Join us." For more information and to show your support contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.asterias-starfish.org Greece, a reception country for refugees Border lockdown means Greece is no longer a transit ‘stop’ but a destination Government officials admitted on Wednesday that Greece is becoming a reception, rather than transit, country for migrants as the European Commission announced a €700 million humanitarian aid package to ease the plight of refugees. Speaking to a group of mayors on Wednesday, Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said that Greece had to assume the border at Idomeni would be closed to refugees and migrants. He also suggested that as a result of stricter border restric- tions in other parts of Europe, migrants would no longer be able to pass swiftly through the country and that the current situation, with people being stuck in Greece for some time, might continue for the next two to three years. Mouzalas met with the heads of local authorities to discuss other sites that could be used to house migrants in the coming weeks, Kathimerini reports. It is estimated that there are already 26,000 migrants in Greece and that this number will continue rising. The minister said that the government is currently looking for temporary accommodation for new arrivals "In the next phase, we will have to work out where to put those who will remain longer in the country and to which closed facilities we will trans- fer those who will be repatriated," said Mouzalas. Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said he is willing to help the government find facilities to house migrants, even though he has objections to the way the coalition has handled the crisis. Kaminis said that it is imperative that authorities do not allow ad hoc migrant camps to spring up in city squares and parks. "Don't panic, the problem is manageable," said Mouzalas. "It is an emergency situation and needs some time before matters can be settled." However, concern is growing within the European Union about the rising number of migrants trapped in Greece as Athens struggles to find the resources to care for them. "We are ... really worried," European Commission Presi- new emergency assistance scheme and €200 million both next year and in 2018. The funds will be allocated to NGOs rather than the Greek state. Greek authorities confirmed Border restrictions further north in the Balkans have left thousands of refugees stranded in a country that is still wracked by its own financial crisis and unable to seal its lengthy sea border with Turkey. PHOTO: AP/VADIM GHIRDA. dent Jean-Claude Juncker said about the build-up on Greece's border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). His comment came as Brussels announced plans for a €700 million humanitar- ian aid package to prevent "a huge humanitarian crisis in Greece". The commission's proposal, if approved, will channel €300 million this year from its €155 billion annual budget to the yesterday that they are in the process of sending back 308 migrants who are not eligible for asylum to Turkey. Since the start of the year, 364 people have been returned by Greece to its neighbouring country. All the migrants are thought to be from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Athens has had a readmission agreement with Ankara since 2002. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said yesterday that his government has now offered to conclude such deals with 14 countries. He did not name the countries.
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