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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 August 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 2015 23 GREECE Kos pushed to its limits Island residents react to the staggering migrant influx and EU’s immobility NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU More than 5,000 refugees are piled up in the port of Kos, while another flock of dinghies spits out another thousand souls from Syria. "I spent the entire summer of 2014 here and within a few months the island has turned into a completely different place," says MTV Greece presenter Sophie-Theodora Giltizi. "I live in Athens but my family are permanent residents. I'm gobsmacked by how Kos went from paradise to hell in a jiffy." Giltizi feels that describing the situation as 'dire' is an understatement. She fears the backlash from the poor living conditions the refugees, as well as the Kos residents, are faced with will be immense. "Thousands of people were locked in the Antagoras football ground screaming for food, water and registration," she tells Neos Kosmos. "The unbearable heat and the poor hygiene conditions are making the immigrants aggressive." The majority of Kos' people go to great lengths to feed and care for the refugees out of their own pockets, however, the local authorities' unwillingness and the increasing numbers of people landing on the coasts in shambles on a daily basis, have worn them out. "Our beautiful island is in disarray. My family tries to help but they are starting to worry and fear for the worst," emphasises Giltizi, wondering "what will happen in a month or two?" "There's no reception centre and no official government program to provide them with essentials." Greece is a cash-strapped nation going through its own hell at the moment, which is why Giltizi and people living on islands like Kos were pinning their hopes on the first measures under the EU Migration Agenda. "International aid groups are criticising the Greek government for the poor treatment," she says, stressing that TV presenter Sophie-Theodora Giltizi, whose family still lives in Kos, is not just saddened but alarmed for her island’s predicament. Greece has received no help from the EU. Meanwhile, Greek American Kos resident Elias Svinos describes an even worse predicament for the island's population of 35,000. "Our daily 'refugee-intake' is in the thousands," he says. "The situation is far beyond our capacity as it is, yet, the UNCHR are estimating another 25,000 to arrive by the end of October." Svinos, who works as a translator and English teacher, is thinking of relocating to the United States. "No one seems to be thinking long term," he adds, pointing to the over 100,000 Syrians stacking up in the Turkish coasts, ready to jump on board the first vessel heading towards the Mediterranean. "These are the circumstances under which hot-headed Golden Dawn supporters convince people racism is the only solution." Fights broke out during a registration procedure the other day and Svinos confirms both ends were aggressive. "A lot of people are taking matters into their own hands Greek American Kos resident Elias Svigos, who has spent months raising awareness on the migrant issue, plans to leave the island and return to the US. as the EU and local government have turned their backs on Kos," he admits. "Most refugees are of Syrian background, fleeing an ongoing civil war to re-obtain their freedom and are being locked-up all over again." According to Svinos, the people of Kos are afraid hunger and frustration might make the immigrants resort to criminal behaviour down the track. The residents are divided and ideologically confused. "I am concerned about my family; they don't feel safe," he says. "There have been some petty crimes and a couple of muggings but it feels like the situation can explode and escalate at any given moment." Svinos is disappointed with the indifference being demonstrated by people across the globe towards this pressing issue. "The world has practically become numb by the information and misinformation overload, or maybe humans are inherently selfish and continue to live as such until disaster explodes on their own doorstep." Greece at ‘risk of bloodshed’ Salamis not a priority CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 "We hope that by the end of the week, the majority of the migrants can be registered and can leave the island." The island's stadium and local gymnasium are being used to register the migrants, as well as the local police station. Mr Kiritsis said the immigration officials were scheduled to leave the island by the end of the week. Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its teams in Kos had seen "harassment of migrants and refugees in public spaces, including private security men forbidding them from sitting on park benches in the city centre". "MSF is very worried about how the situation is evolving in Kos," MSF director of operations Brice de le Vingne said. "What was previously a situation of state inaction is now The islands’ state of affairs a health risk for residents and tourists one of state abuse, with police using increasing heavyhanded force against these vulnerable people." The UN refugee agency's division for Europe said last week that 124,000 refugees and migrants had landed in Greece since the beginning of the year. The agency said that Athens' response to the problem had so far been "totally shameful", with many of those landing on the eastern Aegean islands near Turkey forced to sleep in the open, without access to washing facilities and toilets. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras last week said the refugee crisis surpassed the crisis-hit nation's resources and called for European Union assistance. When you venture to your holiday house for the summer, the last thing you expect to see are the remains of dead animals and streets overflowing with bags of rubbish. But that's precisely what local resident Antiope Argyriou encountered when she set out for her annual getaway to the outskirts of Salamis. Distressed by the state of the island, the literature teacher emailed online publication Gorga News hoping to draw much-needed attention to the issue: "I've spent many beautiful summers on this island and it always had the magical ability to wash away my every concern and problem, with the sound of the waves alone. "What I came up against this year - perhaps more than any other time - were images of horror and neglect," she wrote. In the excerpt now published online, Argyriou also goes on to pose questions to the municipal authorities of the island and local residents. She asks the mayor of the island, Roula Nannou, why such a historic site has been left in this state and abandoned, while asking locals how they can stand "to live together with rats and cockroaches, in an atmosphere full of unpleasant odours from the tons of garbage".
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