Seeking Shade And Sanctuary In Kara Tepe Camp On Lesbos

A man lies on a Shelterbox  blanket , cover by a Shelterbox ground mat

ShelterBox Kit Originating In Syria Arrives On Lesbos With New Arrivals

As ShelterBox starts putting up large UN style tents in a camp on Lesbos there is a rush for the shade they provide. Also a surprise for our team as well-travelled ShelterBox kit appears, probably having originated in Syria

As a ShelterBox team begins putting up the first of one hundred large UN-style tents on the Greek island of Lesbos, they have seen what instant relief they are bringing to weary families in search of shade from the daytime sun.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett is at work in the Kara Tepe transit on Lesbos with Response Volunteer Jennifer Butte-Dahl. They are working with international and local volunteers, as well as people living on the site, to put the tents up.

Sam says, ‘About 150 people moved in straight away. None of them had shelter before moving into any of the tents. People started using the limited shade around the tents the moment they were erected, regardless of whether they were going to move in. We had just finished putting one up, and soon found a child lying in the shadow created by the tent.’


And there was a completely unexpected delivery of ShelterBox aid too! Sam and his colleague noticed some ShelterBox-branded groundsheets and blankets in the shade of a tree, in the care of two men. Sam says, ‘They were most likely distributed in northern Syria before the recipients travelled to Turkey and gave them to the two men.’

For more than four years now ShelterBox aid has been distributed across Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and into the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Displaced families and refugees have moved on during this time, and no doubt some of them have now joined the search for asylum in European countries. It is perhaps not so surprising to see ShelterBox aid on the move with its original beneficiaries, but this one sighting indicates how long a journey these people have been on.

Forty ShelterBox tents will be used at Kara Tepe camp, and Sam and Jennifer are in discussions with officials from the local municipality, and with other aid agencies including the UN and Red Cross, about where best to position a further sixty that have already arrived on the island. There are several existing sites that need improving, and there is also the possibility of creating new facilities on the north of the island, near beaches where most people arrive after journeying by sea from the Turkish coast.

There are reports of up to 10,000 new arrivals on Lesbos over last three days.  Others cite boats arriving from Turkey at the rate of one every 1.5 hours.


The decision on who gets time in the relative comfort of the new tents is a difficult one. The ShelterBox team is working with a Greek volunteer network and Syrian camp residents who help with translating. They are prioritising children, the elderly, and anyone who is ill. People are staying  anything from a few days up to a week, awaiting papers to allow them to continue their journeys by ferry to the Greek mainland.

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