Thousands of Boat People from Syria and Afghanistan Set Up Migrant Camp to Turn Popular Greek Island into ‘Disgusting’ Hellhole
Hannah Roberts, Daily Mail, May 28, 2015
Boat people from Syria and Afghanistan and British holidaymakers have clashed on Kos–as migrants have turned the Greek island, popular with cheap package deals, into a ‘disgusting’ hellhole.
As families–enjoying some summer sun with their kids during the half term break–relax on sun loungers on the beach, just a yards away scores of migrants have set up camp, sleeping on cardboard boxes with rubbish strewn everywhere.
Anne Servante, a nurse from Manchester, had come to Kos expecting a relaxing break with her husband Tony, a retired plumber.
Instead her summer break has turned into a nightmare as penniless migrants who are in Greece to claim asylum sit outside their restaurant and watch them eat.
Calling it ‘disgusting’, Anne fumed: ‘We have been coming here for almost ten years. We like to eat, drink and relax. But this time the atmosphere has changed.
‘It’s really dirty and messy here now. And it’s awkward. I’m not going to sit in a restaurant with people watching you.’
Another British couple on holiday with their grandchildren from Birmingham said: ‘We have never been before but we don’t like it.
‘We won’t be coming back if it’s like a refugee camp again next year.’
Migrants from war-torn Afghanistan and Syria have taken shelter under arcades on the seafront in Kos town as they wait to receive security clearance for onward travel to mainland Greece.
The wealthiest groups have smart phones and credit cards and are staying in local hotels for 10-15 euros a night–while the rest are camped out on the harbour side and at a derelict hotel on the edge of Kos town.
Straggly migrants straight from the boats march straight through the town with backpacks on to join friends and register for their travel permits at the police station.
Barefoot toddlers in filthy clothes play among debris while moustached men sit staring out to sea as they plan the next stage of their journey to Athens and the rest of Europe–including some heading for Britain.
Young Afghan mothers in head scarves, changing their babies and washing their children’s clothes in the sea, share the promenade with tourists who sit uncomfortably on the beachfront.
The harbourside has become an unofficial washing line with baby clothes and grubby-looking scarves laid out along the shoreline. Baby bottles and towels litter the area.
Groups of young men squatting together under the shade of the tree look on while British and Dutch families queue for ice-cream.
One group of Afghan girls sitting on the dismantled cardboard boxes that are their beds explain how they have run out of money after a week staying eight to a room in B&Bs.
‘I have only 100 euros left to get to Germany’ explains Leyla Kasanzadeh, an 18-year-old tailor from Kabul who was traveling with her sister Samira, 23.
Recession-hit Greeks are donating what they can. One elderly man handed a breastfeeding mother in a headscarf 10 euros. ‘For the baby’, he said.
Local restaurants have erected a net barrier to block the sight of the makeshift camp, but workers complain that the tourists continue to stay away from this part of town because they don’t know where to look.
As many as 6,000 migrants have landed on the Dodecanese island in the past two months, with a total of 30,000 across the group of islands just a few miles from Turkey.
In the past two days 1,200 arrived on Kos, with fresh landings on the beach every night between 3am and 7am.
Tourists who have been coming to Kos for years complain that the ‘atmosphere has changed’.
Louis Laro, a headmaster from Breda, in Holland, said: ‘We are not happy to see this. It makes you realise what’s going on in this region and what’s coming to the rest of Europe in the next few months. They can’t stay in Greece. ‘
Caroline Ryderkerk, who runs a shop in Kos town, said: ‘It’s terrible for the people that have lost their homes but it’s also causing problems for people with shops and restaurants.
‘Some people stay away because they don’t know how to act. It’s normally much busier than this.’
For the Greeks, already mired in economic crisis, the migrants’ arrival adds to their woes, she claims.
‘This island is already in trouble. The people are kind- they give them blankets but they have very little for themselves. You cannot share what you don’t have.’
Most of the migrants crossed the narrow two mile channel from Bodrum in Turkey in rubber dinghies, in some cases accompanied by the Turkish and Greek coastguard, they said.
Joel Millman of the International Organisation for Migration said that the surge to the Greek islands was likely to be attributable to a crack down by the Turks on ‘ghost ships’ or cargo ships that were ferrying migrants to Italy at the end of last year.
Sani Saleh, an IT teacher from Damascus, said that the boats to Italy were no longer running, ‘but there are thousands of boats to Kos’. ‘It’s very easy to find one’.
Like many he plans to cross Europe on the overland route via Bulgaria and Serbia, then into Hungary and the EU. ‘I want to go to the UK because I know many people there. I speak English. I had an English girlfriend from Birmingham from 1991-94. She was the love of my life. ‘
Ihab Hilal, an optician from Aleppo who fled a call-up to Assad’s army, said that all the children in boat had started crying when the engine stopped in the middle of the journey.
The 29-year-old who said he was hounded by ISIS after carrying out first aid on rebels said: ‘I was carrying a little girl. Then the engine stopped. It was silent, then she started crying and then everyone started crying. After 15 minutes it started again. But it stopped five more times. ‘
Jihad Naif, a dentist who said he hoped to make it to the UK, said he had fled the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa after his cousin was beheaded by the militant Islamists.
He said: ‘There are so many rules now. It has become a very dark city. You can’t wear jeans, you can’t smoke, you can’t listen to music.
‘My uncle’s son had his head cut off because they said he was working for the Syrian Free Army’.
‘There are many Europeans among them. I met one who was a communications manager in Lyon before, another Swedish. They come to us and we go to Europe.’