Good news travels fast. Bad news travels faster. It wasn’t so long ago that the world seemed to be in crisis and millions were fleeing their homes, because if they didn’t war would catch them out and they and their loved ones would surely perish. Many were fleeing their homes simply to improve their lot in life, to make their lives happier, to give their children a better life. Some were not fleeing at all, a very, very few were planted in the mass exodus, hell bent on spreading panic and death into the civilised west.
I’m writing about the refugees that were making a mass exit from North Africa and the Middle-East not so long ago. Many of these people were willing to risk death by drowning to sail across the Mediterranean sea and hopefully reach Europe and maybe even North America, the promised land to many. Many of these refugees were children, fatherless, motherless and friendless who had already lost everything, including their families, wiped out by a never ending war in Syria.
Like many, I watched all this drama unfolding before my eyes, from the safety of my home in Cyprus. As soon as the news was over, I, like most of us, turned my TV off and turned my brain off from thinking about the plight of these refugees.
Now the refugee crisis seems to have passed. Let’s face it, there can’t be many people left in Syria wanting to flee the war there. You never hear about the peril many experience crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa trying to reach Italy of Greece. We don’t hear about it because it’s not news anymore. Been there, done that and don’t wear that t-shirt anymore.
The problem is, the crisis isn’t reported on, but it’s still there. According to the IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, almost 11,000 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in the first nine weeks of 2018. Over 50% arrived in Italy, Greece 27% and Spain 22% with Cyprus a tiny 1%. Compare this to 2017 where there were almost twice that number and you will see the crisis is nowhere near as profound, or newsworthy, as it was in 2015.
The 1% of refugees landing in Cyprus in the first nine weeks of 2018 represents over a hundred people. Not a lot of people and certainly not a crisis by anyone’s standards, unless you happen to be one of those refugees who are now living in a camp on the island of Cyprus.
In a vague sort of way I had heard of these camps. I knew some refugees were living in a camp on one of SBAs (the British Government’s Sovereign Base Areas) and had also heard something about a camp in the next village to where I live. It turns out this camp in Kofinou was closer to me than I knew, but a world apart from the Cyprus I have come to know and love. Every Saturday I get up early and drive for ten minutes to Kofinou, where I go to a local shop that sells British newspapers. I buy my paper and drive home, where I make coffee and read my paper. If I had stayed on that road in Kofinou for another ten minutes and drove past the shop I visit every Saturday, I would have arrived at the refugee camp, tucked out of the way past a disused Abattoir.
My experience of refugees is solely down to what I have seen on TV news coverage, that is until Saturday 12th May 2018. I’ll publish part two of this story on my blog later this week. Read my story here and you may come to understand why I now feel very much on edge and uneasy with my comfortable life in the civilised west.
Tom Kane © 2018