Oct 5th, 2017, 12:29 PM

Upsurge in Refugee Landings on Lesbos in September

By Forrest Crellin
Refugees on a dhingy in the Mediterranean. Image Credit: Wikimedia/MstyslavChernov
"There was never a crisis of refugees, there was a crisis of policy."

During the month of September, the number of refugees arriving on Lesbos has doubled from the monthly total last year. Over the course of the month, 2,364 people have arrived on the island, overburdening the already full camps. Moria, which is located on the south shore of the island, has a capacity of 3,500 people and has been housing about 4,670 people. The official UN statistic had Moria at a population of 3,960 people as of September 5th, while over 2,000 people have landed on the island since. There is an average of 95 people arriving per day, almost quadruple the 25 people per day who were landing last year at this time.

On Monday, September 25, Moria camp burned down due to unknown causes, exacerbating the situation and leaving officials scrambling to decide how to house everybody. UNHCR is calling for increased help to ease the already overburdened islands.

"From a position of moral standards, it’s actually disturbing. The E.U. is not listening, they’re turning people away.”

Basil Roth, the current interim field coordinator for Lighthouse Relief in Skala Skamineas, shared his views on the matter, as Lighthouse helps with the landings on the North Shore, “Landings happen so often now that they are hard to remember. I was asked the other day about a landing that happened on Monday and I had to go back to my report to remember… There was never a crisis of refugees, there was a crisis of policy. The problem is the E.U. Greece has been in an economic crisis for ten years now and the Dublin agreement has left them stranded. It promised to relocate [98,255 people] and has not even come close.

It is like a landslide has destroyed a shed and people are saying the village is in danger. The population of the E.U. is 508 million and there are less than 150,000 people that have arrived this year. In comparison it is nothing. It is a media-made crisis. If the countries did what they agreed to do, this would be nothing. They have closed the borders. We all already kind of got used to that. That’s the one really horrible thing that we don’t get upset about anymore. That’s awful; from a position of moral standards, it’s actually disturbing. The E.U. is not listening, they’re turning people away.”

According to witnesses from the island, on the night of September 12, 2017, at 9:00 pm, a German NATO warship radioed a warning that a refugee craft had been spotted in Greek waters. The Greek Coast Guard, Turkish Coast Guard, and Proactiva, a lifesaving NGO, sent their boats in response. The Turkish Coast Guard then proceeded to go 0.45 nautical miles into Greek territory to retrieve the boat and take the people back to their uncertain future on Turkish shores. The Greek Coast Guard, witnessing the breach of sovereignty, did nothing. There have been concerns in Turkey of refugee child labor in major brand name clothing factories, but the EU has continued to deport refugees back to Turkey as part of the E.U.-Turkey deal.