Humanitarian crisis on the Greek island of Lesvos

Isola di Lesbo: campo di Karatepe, 20 luglio 2015
Isola di Lesbo: campo di Karatepe, 20 luglio 2015

Isola di Lesbo: campo di Karatepe, 20 luglio 2015
Isola di Lesbo: campo di Karatepe, 20 luglio 2015
Lesvos is the biggest island in the north-eastern part of the Aegean Sea, located less than 20km far from the Turkish coasts. Every day, around 1,000 Syrian (60%) and Afghan (30%) asylum-seekers arrive on its northern shores, at the closest point with Turkey.

An ever greater number of migrants attempts to enter by the seaway using rubber or wooden boats due to the harsh security checks, the double metal fence built on the shores of the Evros river and the collective push-backs operated at the border between Greece and Turkey.

The figures shown by Amnesty International speak clearly: from the 1st January to the 22nd June 2015, at least 61,474 refugees have reached the Greek islands, compared to the 43,500 people arrived in the whole 2014. Numbers are growing at the pace of 5,000 new arrivals every week, in the first three weeks of June – the NGO says.

According to last June declarations of the Mayor of Lesvos, Spryos Galinos, from the beginning of 2015, the estimate accounts for more than 25,000 landings, considering the local population amounting to 90,000 inhabitants.

The economic crisis that the country is suffering, forced to accept harsh austerity measures and expenditure cuts, is making even more difficult for it to face the unprecedented inflow of mostly Syrian and Afghan refugees coming from Turkey. “Some days”, the Mayor said, “there is not enough food for the people hosted in the reception centres, the government does not have the money to pay for the courier”.

The situation is particularly dramatic in the temporary centre of Karatepe.

The humanitarian operators’ description of the detention and transitional centres located in the island talk about “shocking and unimaginable” conditions of life for migrants living therein, with more than 3,000 asylum-seekers with scarce or no access to water or toilets.

Isola di Lesbo: campo di Karatepe, 20 luglio 2015
Isola di Lesbo: campo di Karatepe, 20 luglio 2015

Luckily, Lesvos does not lack the solidarity of many activists and locals, who continue to help the refugees.

Groups of inhabitants organise themselves to transport migrants from the northern shores of the islands to the reception centres, regardless of the law. Without them, those people should walk for around 40km before arriving to Karatepe, as an anti-smugglers law provides that transferring migrants is illegal.

Below, we publish the reports, videos and photos of Lesvos taken on 20th July by Miriam, a German girl who created the online blog lesvosrefugees.wordpress.com.

Miriam used to spend her holydays in Lesvos for the past 9 years and now she decided to come back for half of her vacations to take action. In Germany too, in Karlsruhe, “together with many other people I try to draw attention on the situation of refugees on the island”, the author writes, “and to combat every kind of racism: institutional, social or governmental”.

Unfortunately, the situation is so dramatic that Miriam, as reported in this text, can do very little for migrants. Her blog “was created to report and organise my experiences. But especially, I made it after having heard from what one of the refugees told me the first day:
“For how long do we have to stay here? For how long do I have to stay here? We are suffering. We do not have access to food, there are no physicians, there is no one to ask…really. I think we have been forgotten
”.

He was speaking in his own language and I have translated his words. I hope that, if he will ever have the possibility to read this text, he will be happy with my translation.

“In Germany, one of our main slogans is “no person is illegal”. But here, on the island of Lesvos, it is different. Usually, there is a legal framework to define illegality. Here, migrants are forgotten. Forgotten by the entire world”.

Article viewed:
Greece forgotten crisis: Lesbos on verge of ‘catastrophe’ as 1,000 refugees arrive ashore daily di Gianluca Mezzofiore, Ibtimes del 17 luglio 2015