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The moment desperate Syrian migrants arrive on a Greek island beach

“Excuse me, what country am I in?” - if ever a question summed up the desperate nature of the flight to Europe’s shores it was surely that.

The person asking me was a young Syrian man who just minutes earlier had come ashore on Lesbos, one of Greece’s islands.

The person asking me was a young Syrian man who just minutes earlier had come ashore on Lesbos, one of Greece’s islands.

A woman is helped up the beach. Credit: ITV News

He spoke perfect English, carried a small bag and a mobile phone carefully wrapped in sealed sandwich bags. That was everything he had been able to bring as he left one life in the hope of another.

He and over two hundred others had braved the darkness to sail from Turkey to Greece.

Mainly Syrian, they had paid the smugglers thousands in the hope that as dawn broke and they reached dry land they would have the chance to live in a place free from civil war.

A baby is carried on to the beach. Credit: ITV News

For many, it felt like the only choice if they were to survive and see their children survive. You surely wouldn’t risk the journey with so many children unless all your other options had gone.

More than 40,000 have arrived on Greek territory this year - far more than in the whole of last year, and bear in mind it’s not yet peak time in the smuggling season.

They are arriving in a country which though free of the violence and tyranny of home has a crisis of its own and can scarcely afford to support anymore people.

More migrants arrive in Greece daily. Credit: ITV News

And yet they try. How could you not, when pregnant women, children and babies, turn up on the shoreline day after day in growing numbers?

Here in Lesbos, there is nowhere to accommodate them, so a detention centre is housing over 1,000 inside and out and the Mayor has used community money to build a makeshift camp site.

It is basic, insecure and whilst hot in the day, it is perishingly cold at night. There’s no question of blankets to cover all of those who seek warmth.

A baby is carried on to the beach. Credit: ITV News

One man I spoke to is furious that the burden of caring for so many appears to have fallen to those who can least afford it.

“Now is the time for Europe to stand up and do something properly to help these people,” he told me.

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