Landing in Molyvos

Paul Hill and Maria Falconer have been volunteering in refugee camps in Greece and have been moved by the 14000 refugees that are trapped at a temporary camp on the Greek / Macedonian border. Over the coming weeks they will be sharing their thoughts and experiences with PhotoVoice. 

Paul Hill is a photographer and journalist with years of experience working for publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The Telegraph magazine and the Birmingham Post and Mail, amongst others. Maria Falconer is a creative photographer who specialises in performance photography and whose work has been exhibited in the UK, the US, Ireland, East Asia and in March last year Maria Falconer was shortlisted for the PhotoVoice and theprintspace photography competition. Both Maria and Paul were moved by the refugee crisis and in response they fundraised enough money to live and volunteer in Greece for five weeks. Through a three part series we will be given a unique insight into their experiences as both photographers and volunteers in Greece.

 

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Paul Hill[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]“What’s this place?” said the Afghan boy, clutching his thermal foil cape. “Molyvos,” I said. I don’t think that meant a lot to him.[/gdlr_column]

 

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Maria Falconer[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]This morning began early, around about 5.30 am. That’s when we set off to see if any help was needed with boats landing.[/gdlr_column]

 

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Maria Falconer[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]This was the scene at Efthalou on the NE coast at about 6 am. Dawn was breaking and there was a light trail made by a large boat moving through the water. It’s just possible to make out the lights on the Turkish coast in the distance. Refugees, making the trip from Turkey, have been landing along this coast line for more than eighteen months. Here, voluntary rescue agencies pick them up and transport them to local camps, or on to Moria in the south for registration.[/gdlr_column]

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Paul Hill[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]“The coastguards are now picking up the refugees from the sea, or from the lifeguards’ speedboats, and landing them here in the harbour,” commented one of the more seasoned volunteers, who has been here for three months. “They should have done this months ago. But now it’s because they want to get the refugees away from Molyvos Harbour, and to Moria as quickly as possible.” The main voluntary group of volunteers in Molyvos, Starfish, have had to deal with the mass influx of refugees since they started making the perilous journey from Turkey, and used to do a simple registration of each refugee before they left to go south, and the ferry to Athens.[/gdlr_column]

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Maria Falconer[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]Sure enough, at about 8.30 am the first of three boats chugged into the port. Bringing with it people from all walks of life.[/gdlr_column]

 

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Paul Hill[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]You smile, say hello, and find out what the refugees need. They will probably be in shock, wet, cold, hungry, and confused, but the men and young boys want to shake your hand, and say ‘thank, thank you’.[/gdlr_column]

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Maria Falconer[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]I got into conversation with a guy from Iran who was about 30 years old. He spoke excellent English with a very British accent -confusing at first as the American accent is much more prevalent. But he told me that he had lived in Britain for 13 years. He knew Derbyshire and Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool and said that he wished he had been born in Britain, but sadly he wasn’t. He told me that it had taken 9 hours to get from Iran to Turkey and then another 4 to come across the Agean sea. I’m guessing that last time he made this trip it involved a simple flight into Heathrow. His trousers were wet – soaking wet, and I offered him an emergency blanket. At first he refused, out of what I suspect was politeness. But when I pointed out that he was shaking, he took the blanket and thanked me. He told me that it had been very windy on the sea and that they had been continually bailing out water. A woman had almost fallen in, but he had managed to grab her and save her. That’s how he became so wet, he said, ‘next time I’ll let people save themselves’ he joked.[/gdlr_column]

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[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Paul Hill[/gdlr_column]
[gdlr_column size=”2/3″]The first thing the young men, who have survived the boat journey, seem to want to do is to take a selfie on their mobiles to send home. It’s a ‘we’ve made it’ gesture, rather than a piece of mindless narcissism. One came up to me and wants to do one of him and me. I suspect his mates in Kabul will not consider sending a portrait of him with an old man is a very cool thing to do, but who am I to judge?  Isn’t photography wonderful….[/gdlr_column]

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These photographs and many others are available for purchase here. All of the proceeds will go to trusted voluntary groups working directly with refugees.

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