Feature: The Refugee Dilemma
In 2015 the northeastern Aegean Islands hit the headlines when thousands of refugees landed on the islands' beaches, fleeing war and violence. The world watched as empathetic and concerned locals assisted the traumatised people, including children. Since then, many more refugees have arrived at Levsos, Samos, Chios and Kos. Though refugee numbers are now at a trickle, there is a backlog in processing. While their applications for asylum are being validated and processed, the refugees are housed in several camps around the island.
As a result of media coverage of the situation, tourism on several of the islands, particularly Lesvos and Samos, has suffered greatly. This is particularly difficult for the local people. Travellers take note: tourist infrastructure here is as strong as ever. The islands all offer wonderful accommodation, eating, and cultural experiences. While it’s important to stay attuned to the world news and keep alert to safety issues when planning any trip, do not overlook these wonderful islands. The world has seen how welcoming the big-hearted locals are to outsiders; deep-rooted filoxenia (hospitality) prevails here.
A few volunteer organisations operate on the islands trying improve the plight of refugees in the squalid camps. Indigo Volunteers (https://indigovolunteers.org) is an international organisation that vets volunteers before placing them with local volunteer groups. Below are the organisations operating on some of the islands:
- Samos Volunteers https://samosvolunteers.org
- LIghthouse Relief (Lesvos) https://www.lighthouserelief.org