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Refugees Arrive on the Island of Kos

Photographer: Yannis Kolesidis

 

What is happening in the eastern Aegean has no precedent. Every night, at least five to seven boats loaded with Syrian and Afghan migrants start their journey from Bodrum, Turkey, and head to the Greek island of Kos. It is a perilous attempt, as the recent drowning of migrants who reached a popular beach in Rhodes in a dinghy showed. But for refugees trying to escape war, this is the only way out.

 

Dozens of migrants pile into boats which barely remain afloat and are equipped mostly with small engines or only with oars as they reach the coast every night. Some of them will be detected by the Greek Coast Guard, while the rest can be seen with a naked eye as dots in the horizon.

 

Almost all migrants arriving are hosted in an old and abandoned hotel without electricity and without appropriate hygienic conditions for about 15 days, which is the required time for their documents to be issued that will allow them to continue their journey to Athens, from there to FYROM, and then to a northern European state.

 

The living conditions are extremely hard as there is not enough space and beds for everyone. Migrants are forced to sleep on the floor and in makeshift tents. The food distributed from the island’s authorities is never enough for everyone and at nights they light fires fuelled by wooden furniture found around the hotel. Those of them who have some money stay in rooms, but the prices are high since they need to pay about 15 euros per day.

 

According to the Greek coast guard, the number of undocumented migrants entering Greece by sea reached 10,445 people in the first quarter of 2015, compared to 2,863 people for the same period last year. In March 2015, 6,498 migrants managed to reach the shores of Greece's eastern Aegean islands alone, with Lesvos, Chios, Leros and Samos being their main destinations.