The great exodus of our time. By Matthew Lambert from Orleans Park School

A heartfelt thank you and congratulation to Matthew! He has been writing Young Reporter pieces and has won an award. A comforting thought, that our future generation is well informed and empathetic towards one of the biggest issues of our times:

The great exodus of our time. Refugees in their thousands flocked to Europe’s shores in search, in hope, of a better life, and an opportunity to escape their war-torn homelands of Africa and the Middle East.

Perhaps inevitably, upon arrival, the much sought after Europe, is not quite the picturesque paradise it may have once appeared to many of those making the dangerous route. After having made the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, or the long trek through the sparse Turkish countryside, those who reach Greece may be, by some, considered the lucky ones, yet even once they step into the Europe, the problems of these people don’t end.

In Greece, the migrants are placed in temporary camps of squalor and danger. During the winter, especially in harsh winters, the migrants are more than likely susceptible to sub-zero conditions and consequently many are vulnerable to disease.

Enter the Three Peas Group, a local group of friends dedicated to helping those migrants in Greece. Formed in April 2016, the organisation volunteers in refugee camps across Greece and helps to house the more vulnerable families in apartments.

The group does a great amount for the families they have housed, including covering families’ financial costs and rents, supporting lessons to learn English, helping with putting migrants in contact with larger organisations, and giving advice where possible.

Over the group’s eleven-month history, the group has managed to place 25 families in flats, that’s 100 people. However, whilst the action within the camps is key, the organisation’s focus also lies in the awareness of the public back here in the UK.

On the 22nd March 2017, the Three Peas organisation, visited the First Richmond Cub Pack, to inform the children about the conditions the migrants face within the camps. They explained how the group helps migrants by participating in larger projects, by fundraising, but perhaps most importantly by giving refugees their support, and allowing the refugees to have somebody to talk to.

After the talk at First Richmond, I talked to one of the volunteers at Three Peas, Martina Riot, who talked to me about the difficulties of being granted entry into the EU: “[The refugees] all have to register by Skype. The problem is you have a certain time slot during the week, and all the people that have arrived in Greece, have to call up to get this interview so that they can get their first papers to be legally there.”

“Then they have to wait for another appointment, to have another interview, where they have to define whether they want to go for relocation in Europe, or if they want to go for family reunification – so if they have somebody already there. So, it can take from six months, that’ll be quick, to a year. We have met some people who arrived in February last year, and are still in Greece.”

But what can the public do about this crisis? To many, this issue is one that seems impossible to deal with. Officials in Westminster and Brussels seem to have no answer to the tide of migrants stuck in Southern Europe, and therefore it seems implausible that we as individuals are able to help.

Martina believes that the most effective way for people to get involved is to raise awareness, and to visit the camps in Greece yourself, so to be able to see the crisis with your own eyes. “If you have been there once,” she says, “You will never step back, you will continue to support [them].”

After having heard the talk, the First Richmond Scout Group helped raise awareness for the migrants, and for local homeless people by completing several activities throughout Saturday 25th, showing what people can do, and the message people can spread if they get talking about these important issues.

Sometimes, it can be hard, hidden away in the cosiness of Richmond-Upon-Thames to remember the cold and desperate truth of the plight of many of these people who risk their lives to create a new life, only to be stopped at the front door of where they’ve been longing to reach. It can be difficult to realise that this isn’t half-way across the world, but only a three-hour flight from here. It is clear more awareness does need to be spread for these people, and the Three Peas Group are an excellent example of how that should be done.

By Matthew Lambert from Orleans Park School