Doctor and activist

Refugees on Lesbos: an observation. 9/9/18

I visited Lesbos, a Greek Island  recently as a tourist.  I stayed in a villa, did some snorkeling, strolled and ate and drank at restaurants on the beach. The villa owner was from a fishing family and told me about the refugees on the island.  There had been a big influx in 2015, both from Syria and from Africa, India and Pakistan.  They been everywhere in the biggest city, Mytilini.  They had been in the parks and were threatening and predatory, watching to see how long you left your car, and stealing when they could. His young wife confirmed that she felt very unsafe.  The refugees had been homeless and slept in the parks, defaecating in the street.  He said that they ‘made the city like a shithole’.

They had been moved to refugee camps some 40 minutes from the city, but were free to come and go and still stole fruit from the orchards and stock from the farmers, who were understandably upset by all this.  He said that the situation was better than it had been.  He said that the Syrian migrants were a cut above the others, being all quite well educated and had been accepted in Europe and were no longer in Lesbos.

When we visited Mytilini we found groups of black people, mainly young men, who looked African rather than Indian sitting in the parks in groups talking and drinking Coca Cola.  They were reasonably tidily dressed in casual T shirts, appeared well-fed and did not appear threatening or homeless.  I could only conclude that they were from the refugee camps and had some financial and material support.  As Greece is in an economic crisis, I can only assume that this help was from the EU.  If so, the African youths working their way to Europe appear to have succeeded so far.  What work they will get, or where they will eventually be domiciled is not clear, but for normal citizens no passports are needed from the islands to the rest of Greece or the rest of the EU at present.

Perhaps they symbolize all the 3rd world.  They are there, they need to be fed, and eventually someone with resources will have to figures out how they can be employed and have a reasonable life.  The African youths sitting in Mytilini have just progressed a little further than most others in the 3rd world.

This is merely a traveler’s anecdote with my conclusions- I cannot vouch for my assumptions or the opinions of my villa owner.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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