It was lpm in the morning ( in Greece) on April 19th 2016 when Shaker Jeffery one of our Yezidi members called me from Greece to say that there were 14 Yezidis who had walked for six hours into Macedonia from Idomeni and that they were now being attacked by a large group of 30 smugglers or mafia. They were terrified and screaming for help. They were a mixed group including children as young as one year old.
I immediately messaged Tim Eisenlohr who formed a group of five of us. This was a very difficult case, the location pin sent by the refugees showed that they were in a very heavily forested area near the municipality of Gevgelija. Contact was variable and we knew that at some point their phones would run out of charge.
We informed the police but they were reluctant to do anything and it was now very late at night. There was little we could do until the morning.
The next day Shaker was again receiving repeated messages and cries for help from the group, they were absolutely terrified as they feared for their lives as they were surrounded by about 30 smugglers who were threatening them. At one point one of the refugees was grabbed and beaten up, and returned to the group unable to move. Time was off the essence here.
Miraculously we had Valentina in the group , a Macedonian who was able to go to the area and persuade the local police to act! It is a very dangerous area, known for local mafia and smuggling, this was not something to be taken lightly.
It was not until the evening that the police, who were very professional in the end, agreed to accompany her to the forest to search for the group. By the time they reached them it was 10 pm local time and Valentina had these amazing little videos of the group as they were rescued and we were able to see the little baby and the children. She even found a smuggler’s phone which the police took away as evidence.
The group were so thankful to ResCO and especially Valentina who was amazing. It was a very very dramatic day for us! These poor people could easily have been killed or badly beaten and we were very proud to have been able to rescue them. In this intense 14 hr period we had sent over a thousand messages in the group chat.
This work is time consuming!