Why an airlift?
Even before the fire, the overcrowded camps on Lesvos and other Greek islands were inhumane places. Now that camp Moria has burned down, Europe must take immediate action and evacuate people. The government has to break open the ‘deal’ of Thursday September 10th to take in 100 people, and take in at least 1000 people from Lesvos. In addition to (medical) emergency aid, an air bridge is the only thing that is needed now, according to us and the Boat Refugee Foundation.
Do you also bring emergency aid, because that is much more necessary, isn’t it?
We Gaan Ze Halen is not a relief organization. We are a group of citizens who believe that the Netherlands can no longer get away with letting Greece take full responsibility for the reception of refugees. Because of the fire, (medical) emergency aid is indeed needed on Lesvos at the moment, but we do not want to contribute to the reconstruction of Moria. We ask for evacuation and relocation. At the moment, the work of NGOs is severely hampered by the police and the army and it is very unclear what they can do in the coming weeks.
The refugees on Lesvos also demonstrated last week. Despite the lack of food and shelter they demand freedom and evacuation of all refugees on the island. Some of them even went on hunger strike because they do not want to be locked up in the new camps at all costs. With the airplane and the appeal to our government we show that the refugees are not alone.
What if the Dutch government does not give permission?
The plane leaves for Lesvos and will stay at Mytilini airport for a maximum of two nights. Until the very last moment, the Dutch government has the opportunity to use that plane for the evacuation of 189 people.
If the Dutch government decides not to use this air bridge, the plane will fly back to the Netherlands empty. Because we have to reserve the plane well in advance, we will have to pay the costs for this flight regardless of the outcome. The Netherlands has shown its willingness to invest €3.5 million to keep unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Greece, despite the call from more than 165 municipalities to bring 500 children to the Netherlands. Compared to that, the costs for a flight to Lesbos are not significant.
Don’t you give the refugees false hope?
Rebuilding Moria, a new tent and sleeping bag create false hope. Hope that the system will work again. Hope that everything will be arranged in an orderly fashion in the foreseeable future. And hope for a fair procedure. But we all know that is not going to happen. The policy remains the same and therefore the situation will not improve. There is no fair procedure. Pretending that things are going to be okay on the island – that is giving false hope.
During previous campaigns we have used our network to explain to the refugees what our action means. in our experience, people understand very well that we cannot decide if they are allowed to come along, but that it is up to the government. The conditions on the island, the police brutality and the imprisonment in camps give them the impression that nobody in Europe cares about them. With this action we want to show them: you are not alone, we too think that European member states should help you.
What are you doing towards politicians?
The current deal has to be off the table and the Netherlands has to take in at least 1000 refugees from Lesbos. That is why we have set up a number of actions to put more pressure on the political parties that can make this a reality. Soon you will find an overview of the actions on this website. For now: keep an eye on Facebook or set up your own action to remind the representatives of VVD, CDA, D66 or ChristenUnie of their duty.
How many people can you take with you and what will it cost?
We rent an airplane with room for 189 passengers. The cost per airplane seat is €250,-.
Are you people smugglers?
No. In the end it is the Dutch government that has to give permission to actually fill the plane. In the meantime we will prepare the plane on the island.
What happens to the refugees when they arrive in the Netherlands?
Here they will be accommodated properly, and they will get a fair procedure. That is what they are entitled to. We receive daily messages from people who want to help with shelter and other support.
On Friday the 25th of September 2020 you placed a full-page advertisement in the Algemeen Dagblad. Did you pay that with my contribution for an airplane seat?
No. As a result of previous campaigns we received donations to amplify the message of We Gaan Ze Halen. We used those contributions to place this ad.
Soon all 189 seats will be sponsored. What do you do with donations that come in afterwards?
Additional donations are very welcome and can be used to strengthen our efforts. The plane is the most important thing, but in order to actually take people back, the government has to give permission. Together with you we will do everything we can to increase the pressure on our political leaders as much as possible and show that there is a lot of support in the Netherlands for an air bridge.