Between October 3, 2016 and December 20, 2016, I lived in Lesvos, Greece.
Specifically in the village of Skala Skaminia
Lesvos is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of 630.435 sq mi (1,632.819 sq km); with 199 mi (320 km) of coastline. This makes it the third largest island in Greece.
It is mainly an agricultural and fishing economy.
Just about 5 mi (8 km) away, Turkey looms in the distance. On certain days, you can easily see the houses on the mountain side.
Because of the proximity to the Turkish coast and the recent refugee crisis, Lesvos has found itself in the spotlight.
According to UNHCR, 173,447 people arrived to Greece between Jan 1- Dec 31 2016.
146 people died at sea and 51 persons went missing.
Although the traffic and flow to this island is no where near what it was a year ago, people are still coming.
This crisis has put enormous pressure on both the local and national governments as well as UNHCR. No one expected or was prepared for the sudden influx of migrants. Today, instead of coming to Lesvos, they arrive in Italy and are crossing via the significantly more dangerous route of the South Mediterranean.
In all this chaos, the village of Skala Skaminia has found itself at the center of the Lesvos story.
When no non-governmental agency or government agency was around to help those drowning at sea, it was the locals who stepped up to the plate.
Instead of fishing, fisherman would rescue sinking boats and save drowning people.
Before large camps were established, locals would house the migrants in their homes. Feeding them their food, dressing them in their clothe, and sheltering them in their homes.
Today, Skala Skaminia continues to be the center of the Northern Lesvos operation.
A place where volunteers, humanitarian agencies, military, police, and locals converge to share information or simply to share a cup of coffee.
A beautiful little village on the sea, it seemed to be in the perfect location.
The village olive press.
The village of Molvos.
Only 20 minutes from Skala Skaminia, the locals here view refugees and NGO’s as a burden. They are not afraid to show aggression and look to blame refugees and NGO’s for local economic problems. This is a place where volunteers hide their accreditation in fear of personal safety.
The sad thing is, Molvos is a beautiful village, with lots of historical sites to explore. But their aggression towards the migrants is hard to ignore, making this location one many volunteers stay away form.
Even with all the natural beauty surrounding you, there are constant reminds of the tragedy that has hit this place.