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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 June 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 JUNE 2015 25 GREECE wine-dark sea temperatures that reached 30 degrees. As offering any assistance to undocumented migrants is illegal in Greece, locals and tourists are reluctant to offer them lifts, although some do. "The authorities have been putting barriers in our way and making Greeks afraid. Greeks are not like that; they are family-oriented," says Kempson. Finding itself at the start of the tourist season and in the midst of the Greek financial crisis, Molyvos can barely cope with the surge in the numbers of refugees and undocumented migrants. There has been no official response and no humanitarian NGOs have shown up in the town, which has been without a public doctor for eight months, Kempson says. Filling that gap is a small team of locals, among them many expats, who are struggling to offer basic assistance to the refugees, which at best includes some food every morning and evening, fruit, water, clothing, blanket, toiletries, nappies and other essential items. Others try to offer women and children a bed at least once a week. "I'm half-Croatian, so I know what it's like to be put out of your home," said one Molyvos resident, Emma, who declined to give her surname, as she took Fatma, her children and five others home for the night. But it's an uphill struggle. Without any outside help, the volunteers know they can't keep up with the sheer number of arrivals which, going by previous years, are expected to peak between July and September. Many of the volunteers earn their living from tourism themselves, as Dina Adam, a hotel employee, and Hannah, owner of a children's clothes shop, explain as they make 90 sandwiches one evening for that day's arrivals. They say finding the time to help out is becoming more difficult as the season gets into full swing. Wholly dependent on public donations, the volunteers have been heartened by the response from many tourists staying in the town, including a Dutch couple who offered the €100 that they had earmarked for a boat excursion. "We are on holidays in Greece and see the good work you are doing for the refugees ... keep on helping people," the holidaymakers wrote on a note accompanying the money. But among locals in Moly- vos, there's no agreement on how best to deal with the issue. There is a fear that the considerable international publicity generated by the crisis, in particular exaggerated tabloid reports that claimed refugees were turning the island of Kos into a "disgusting hellhole" for British holidaymakers, will affect tourism. REFUGEE CRISIS "Yes, we get looks from some people because of what we're doing for the refugees. But we tell them we don't want them to stay here and remind them they don't want to stay here either," says one volunteer. "I do worry about how my guests view the situation," says hotelier Dimitris Vatis, as a migrant boat comes ashore near his hotel. "Some say they've heard about it, others seem to be unaware. But in general no one knows about the refugee crisis here in Greece as all the focus is on the situation between Libya and Italy." For one of his German guests, the scene unfolding in front of her is a wake-up call, one that she and others need to see. "This is part of life. It's no longer something we see just on our TV screens." * This story appeared originally in The Irish Times. A humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions Latest figures show migrant crossings top 100,000 UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency - warned this week that the situation on Lesvos and other islands in the eastern Mediterranean is worsening. "Around 600 refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, arrive every day in the Greek islands," said UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards. Half of these are coming ashore in Lesvos, where arrivals have grown from 737 in January and 1,002 in February, to 3,348 in March. Almost 5,000 arrived a month later and more than 7,200 in May. Hundreds of refugees leave the island for the Greek mainland every day after being screened and registered. At present there are around 2,200 to 2,500 on the island waiting for registration by the authorities. UNHCR has been present on Lesvos and other Greek islands since 2011, supporting the authorities' efforts to improve reception conditions and procedures, providing legal advice to newcomers about the asylum procedure in Greece, as well as their rights and responsibilities. The refugee agency has called for urgent reinforcement of personnel and resources of all state services and civil society organisations dealing with the reception of refugees. As of information received this week, UNHCR said that there have been 103,000 refugee and migrant arrivals in Europe via the Mediterranean so far in 2015: 54,000 in Italy and 48,000 in Greece. Pakistani migrants approaching Kos. PHOTO: AP/PETROS GIANNAKOURIS. Lesvos, June 1: A Syrian father drags his sleeping infant and a few belongings in the lid of a rubbish bin. PHOTO: EPA/STRATIS BALASKAS. Syrian refugee Arianna, 7, is embraced by her father at an abandoned hotel on Kos. Lesvos, Chios, Leros and Samos are the refugees’ most popular destinations. PHOTO: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS.
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