I arrived on Lesvos on Friday as Macedonia shut its borders and left tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece without adequate shelter, food or water. Ten Balkan countries, lead by Austria, declared they would no longer admit Afghan refugees inside their borders and would impose strict procedures on others.
In response, Greece shut its embassy in Austria and called for Europe to share the burden it has assumed by providing support to over a million refugees over the past year. The people here are preparing for the worst as refugees continue to arrive, many of whom will not be permitted to leave Greece. Thousands are already stranded in Athens’ ferry port and here on Lesvos as relief efforts mobilize to find food, water and medical services.
Yesterday in dozens of cities around the world, demonstrators advocated for safe passage. On Lesvos, we formed a human chain along the coast, Greeks and international visitors, Boy Scouts, families and volunteers. A Greek navy ship hovered outside the harbor. A drone buzzed up and down the beach shooting footage of the demonstration. The sky was clear and then full of giant rain clouds. In the hull of an abandoned boat rotting on the shore, I pulled out an orange life vest that was filled with material that doesn’t float.
Being here feels like being part of a family I just learned about, some of whom I met in January, others who have extended their kindness and warmth to me already — and to nephew Dev who is serving as the only non-Greek member of the Lifeguards Hellas. Over lunch in the harbor, he reminded me of the stories in the Odyssey that expressed the Greek values of honor and hospitality.
More news soon.