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Plan for Jersey project to help traumatised young refugees

News | Published:

AN Islander is hoping to launch a youth project in Greek refugee camps so that young people can talk about their traumatic experiences.

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Sean Pontin is looking to buy a ‘youth bus’ which could travel between the camps.

The 48-year-old father of three has already spent five weeks working in two refugee camps in Lesvos – an estimated 6,000 people live in the Moria camp and a further 2,000 in Kara Tepe,

He first travelled to Lesvos in September and worked alongside the Emergency Response Centre International, a Greek non-government organisation, after being made redundant from the Health Department as head of children’s social work.

Mr Pontin, who flew back to Greece on Saturday after spending ten days in Jersey, said: ‘It’s heartbreaking.

‘I came back to Jersey thinking, ‘‘What more can be done?’’. We need to help these people talk through their traumas. I would love to do something in the camp in the same way the Youth Service works with young people in Jersey. We need to get these young people talking about their sexuality, drugs, crime – everything that is normal at that age.’

While in Jersey, Mr Pontin met Jersey Overseas Aid and the Jersey Youth Service to see what funding and support was available.

He said: ‘I have had some good feedback. I hope to get something in place within the coming months. I am asking for support from agencies, more than anything – they are professionals in their field and we could use their expertise.

‘I am hoping to get a youth bus and I am trying to get some funding to travel between a number of camps. I want to do something that the people of Jersey can really get behind.’

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While in Greece Mr Pontin worked as a triage nurse in the medical centre based within the Moria camp.

He said: ‘People’s behaviour is quite frantic because they are desperate to see a doctor. There is a perception that if you get to see a doctor, then it’s a ticket into Europe.

‘The medical team try to help everyone but there are just too many people.

‘We had a five-year-old who died overnight in the camp because they had an undiagnosed brain tumour. We desperately need a trauma specialist.’

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And Mr Pontin said that more must be done to support those within the camps.

‘People are very anxious about immigration and terrorism,’ he said. ‘Young people fleeing their homes want to go to Europe because they think it is a safe place – then they arrive and get welcomed by razor wire. We are giving them a reason to be angry.

‘These are people who have left their homes because they have no choice.’

He added: ‘The boat landings are growing by the day. These people start their journey travelling thousands of miles across the ocean with no idea what will await them once they reach the camp.’

Mr Pontin runs a blog which can be found by searching Lesvos 2017 on Facebook.

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