The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is playing its own part in helping vulnerable children and families in distress trying to reach the safety of Greece.
A project, led by a group of staff which carries out regular voluntary work to assist migrant children, is being supported by colleagues who are also keen to ensure the young people and families can be rescued from dangerous situations in unseaworthy dinghies.
They have donated clothing and shoes to help reduce the effects of hypothermia, while the Company has supplied radios which ensures volunteers can keep in touch with each other.
The Greek islands have seen a surge in new arrivals in recent years with severe overcrowding as thousands flee warzones such as Syria and Iraq.
Low asylum processes mean people are stuck on the islands indefinitely, and families with children are having to live in makeshift shelters with water shortages, poor sanitation and insufficient toilets.
A number of Steam Packet staff help the Refugee Rescue charity which operates rescue vessel ‘Mo Chara’ 24 hours a day to assist those in distress at sea on the North Shore of Lesvos, Greece. It provides the families and children some respite before they are transferred to more permanent shelters.
A spokesman explained: ‘To see so many of these children in camps which are literally bursting at the seams is particularly hard hitting.
‘A lot of the facilities are hosting twice as many people as they were designed for, compromising the safety and wellbeing of the children.’
More than 1,000 children, men and women have been supported in the past few months alone by the charity.
The spokesperson continued: ‘It is a perilous stretch of water between Turkey and Lesvos so it’s vital these vulnerable people are rescued as quickly as possible, to prevent hypothermia and possibly worse.
‘The majority of the children are aged 10 or under and the number of young children arriving is staggering, many of them unaccompanied. In my time in Greece, when the children first arrive they are cold, wet and completely exhausted.
‘As soon as they get dry clothes and some rest, all they want to do is have fun and play which makes all the efforts seem worthwhile. It can be very moving to see how appreciative they are and the children express that in their own ways.
‘Steam Packet staff members have helped indirectly such as donating clothes and organising collections, while some colleagues also travel out to Greece and help directly. The six radios and chargers that the Company has donated are invaluable also.’
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward added: ‘In this situation, it must be difficult for anyone to comprehend what is happening at times.
‘I applaud all the staff for their efforts, whether directly or indirectly, in helping support vulnerable young people at a time when they are so often distressed.
‘The work they are carrying out in transporting families and donating clothes, shoes and blankets is just a small part of the massive humanitarian effort.’