The unsung heroes of the refugee crisis

Rarely mentioned aid workers provide critical services that for a refugee could mean life or death.

| | War & Conflict, Politics, Human Rights, Europe

Gevgelija, Macedonia - With the refugee crisis squarely in the spotlight for the past several months, the world's attention has focused steadfastly on the bleak accounts of those fleeing conflict and war. Yet, within the shadows lies a group of people hidden and rarely spoken of.

They are the aid workers: the men and women volunteering or working for organisations and NGOs that do their best to make the refugees' passage less terrible, less frightening and safer.

It is these individuals, working tirelessly, who spend months watching and helping the thousands of refugees trekking forward and hoping for a better life elsewhere. They are on the front lines of the crisis providing medical care, food, clothes, shelter and, at times, comfort. Without their work, this tragedy would have a much grimmer end.

While in the transit camp in Gevgelija, Macedonia, Al Jazeera spoke to some of the NGO and aid workers, asking them to shed light on their experiences.

Here are their testimonies:

Ivo, UNHCR [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Ivo, UNHCR protection unit: "A few days ago, I met an Iraqi family - an elderly couple. The man was dressed very light, and his wife was in a wheelchair. They had been robbed of all their money in Greece, and now they rely on other people's mercy. I am moved by the extent to which people are willing to give everything up to make it through this journey."

Bojana, Red Cross [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Bojana, doctor, Red Cross: "I met a former legionnaire from France in the camp. He was in love with a Syrian woman, so he went to Syria to take the girl and her family, and now they are all making the journey together, from border to border." 

Malek, Red Cross [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Malek, translator, Red Cross: "I am half Syrian, half Macedonian. I was raised in Syria, but my family came to Macedonia in 2013, after the war started. It touched me when I met at the camp in Gevgelija people from my hometown in Syria, Deiraz Zor. Some did not have any money, so I helped them."

Amer, UNHCR [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

Amer, field monitor, UNHCR: "About a month ago, a truck full of bottled mineral water came. A NuN [Civil Association] volunteer and I had to unload it; there were two to three tonnes of water. I was searching for help among the refugees. An elderly Syrian refugee saw I was getting no response and offered to help, along with two other members of his family. When the job was done, I shook his hand to thank him, and he kissed me on the cheek in return and called me 'habibi' [my dear]. I am part Muslim, so I know that means he considered me part of the family. His warmth moved me."

Related: Clowns give refugees a chance to smile in Greece



Follow Ioana Moldovan on Twitter: @icmoldovan


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