Refugee 'Handbook' With Tips and Maps Found in Greece

Refugees departing from Turkey in people smugglers' boats are being given a booklet which includes maps of Europe, tips and phone numbers of organisations including the U.N. refugee agency and the Red Cross.

One of these "refugee handbooks" was discovered by Sky News after it washed up on the Greek island of Lesbos. It is written in Arabic and includes maps of Europe which show where boats tend to land. "Detention/reception/screening sites" are also marked. The front of the booklet shows a man looking out to sea, apparently preparing himself to make a journey across it. On the back page are pictures of Mitilini, the main port in Lesbos, and a smiling man with the caption: "When I arrived at the shores of Mitilini I came to understand that I am no child anymore."

A volunteer for one of the groups who is behind the booklet, w2eu ('Welcome To Europe') spoke on condition of anonymity to Sky News, explaining that one of the main aims of the booklet is to help those who find themselves in difficulty in the water. She said that included in the guide was a 24-hour emergency number which refugees could call so that the volunteers could then pass on their details to whichever coastguard is closest. "We take information about how many people are in the boats if they get into trouble," she said. "It's a life-saving service we give to refugees. They are going to go anyway, so it's better if we give them advice." She said that the booklets are handed out for free in Turkey.

The w2eu Twitter page reads: "Welcome to europe - fighting the european border regime and giving solidarity to people on the move [sic]," while their website says they provide "independent information for refugees and migrants coming to Europe." The site has numerous pages of information divided into categories such as "Living", "Deportation" and "Detention," as well as downloadable PDFs with details about legal procedures in certain European countries and useful contact details.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have arrived in Greece since the beginning of this year, with thousands more expected before the end of 2015. The island of Lesbos has been one of the flashpoint as refugees coming from Turkey land on its shores, before waiting to be transported to the mainland. However, conditions on the island have rapidly deteriorated as reception centres and makeshift camps have become overwhelmed with the number of refugees arriving.

Speaking to Newsweek at the end of July, Kirk Day, the International Rescue Committee's emergency field director on Lesbos, said that the Kara Tepe camp just outside Mitilini was one of the worst he had visited in terms of mismanagement. "I could not believe what I was seeing," Day said. "I thought, when was the last time I saw a camp this bad, and completely unmanaged, and I couldn't think of somewhere to compare it to."