European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is expected to visit Kos at the end of the week as pressure grows on Greece’s eastern Aegean islands due to the constant flow of migrants and refugees from the Turkish coast.
Despite the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ferry carrying some 2,500 refugees at a time to Piraeus almost around the clock, thousands of people remain stuck on the Greek islands, often in squalid or dangerous conditions. Authorities on Lesvos estimate that there are 12,000 refugees on the island, which has a total population of around 85,000.
The problem is being compounded, though, by the continuous surge of people crossing the Aegean in rubber dinghies given to them by people traffickers. The Greek coast guard said on Monday that it had rescued some 2,500 people in the previous three days. On Monday morning, the crew of an air force helicopter rescued a man just off Chios.
On Saturday, though, a 17-year-old man lost his life when the coast guard tried to stop smugglers off Symi. It appears that the teenager, a migrant, was hit by a bullet fired by the coast guard as it attempted to stop the boat. Two Turkish smugglers were arrested.
Around 4,000 refugees arrived on Lesvos on Saturday alone, heightening concern about whether the island has the resources to support them.
Giorgos Saxonis, a baker who has been officially enlisted to help authorities by providing three meals a day for refugees, says he has yet to be paid and is running out of ways to continue supplying the aid.
“We have run up debts with everyone and we have not been paid yet,” he told Kathimerini. “I only get a small amount anyway; 5.87 euros per person for the three meals per day. When it was only 100 or 200 people, it was manageable. But the other day I handed out 8,644 portions of food. The whole island is full of [refugees’] tents.”
Samos Mayor Michalis Angelopoulous told Kathimerini that the government does not have a plan to tackle the situation and that the municipality would shortly put forward its ideas on dealing with the refugees.
“You could, for example, employ the Syrian doctors on some remote [Greek] islands,” he said.