The Greek island of Lesbos is staggering under the strain of caring for refugees arriving from Turkey. The approximately 80,000 islanders have struggled to help roughly 25,000 incoming Syrians and Iraqis, for the most part.
Lukman Muhammed Ali, a migrant from the Syrian town of Qamishli, said: “We have dream. We want to just feel we are human like all the people.”
The lucky ones are picked up at sea by the coast guard, who then take them to Mytilene port. Those who land themselves must walk.
Greek anti-smuggling law forbids casual transport of unregistered migrants.
Tensions are high. Processing them, feeding and sheltering them is more than Lesbos can handle, and it needs major help.
Lesbos Mayor Spyros Galinos said: “Our island, our home, has caught fire, and when your house catches fire you call the fire brigade. But after that you don’t just step out for coffee. You also pitch in to put it out. We did that, then desperately waited for [government or EU] support — for the fire brigade to arrive. But it is not coming.”
One of the biggest problems is the long delays in registering migrants who want to move on. The waiting stretches resources.
A local resident said: “These people are pitiful. They do deserve support. But at some point, the way this is going, they are going to outnumber us.”
Many of ‘them’ are professionals — engineers, technicians, lawyers or translators — but also small children, pregnant mothers and grandparents.
Arrivals on the northern shore of Lesbos have to walk for two days through mountains to reach help.