No place for children: makeshift site in Lesvos with an estimated 5,000 refugees.
Despite their own economic woes, the inhabitants of the Greek holiday island are generously caring for the boatloads of people fleeing Syria.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, two worlds are colliding. Every day this summer, holidaymakers are confronted with the fallout from bloody civil wars as sunrise brings boatloads of refugees to the beaches of Europe.
During my seven years with UNHCR, I have found myself working in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The last place I expected to be sent on emergency mission was a holiday island during peak tourist season.
But Greece is now the frontline of Europe, receiving more than 1,000 new arrivals every day. More than half of them are to Lesvos. Although the Turkish coast is only 10km across the turquoise Aegean, the crossing costs dearly.
The going rate charged by smugglers is around $1,000, half price for children, and life vests cost extra. You wouldn’t want to take your chances without one, as each week news of another sinking adds to the death toll in this stretch of the Mediterranean.
People are making the journey because they have no choice. Most are from Syria, others from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea – refugees from war, persecution, violence and human rights abuses. Desperation and fear drive them.
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The Guardian: Lesvos: where holiday paradise and refugee crisis converge.