Lesvos (also called Lesbos or Mitilini) is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. It’s famous as the birthplace of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. Capital city Mitilini is home to the University of the Aegean with about 8 000 students every year. It is the third largest island of Greece. Its inhabitants earn most of their living with farming either sheep-related (meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt) or others like, olive harvest, Ouzo production (more than seven different large Ouzo productions for export etc.) and also tourism.
It lies very close to Turkey with 6 km in the North of the island as the smallest crossing point. The island has a long history of migration as being part of different historical episodes: the Ottoman empire, the Byzantine empire, the Latin empire a.s.o.
Area: 1,633 km²
In the closer past of local people for example in the north of the island, they have seen their first “refugee boat” in 1986 with the influx of Kurdish people fleeing Turkey.
It is a very beautiful diverse and natural island, with beaches, mountains, much sun and very many ancient sights to visit, not to forget the beautiful spirit of the people welcoming you. We recommend everyone to visit and see yourself.
Of course there have been also plenty of locals helping and supporting the many refugees passing through, but currently after many feel as the backyard of European “deals” that are not human to anyone on the island, the atmosphere of helping people in need changes.
We have no words to describe the devastating miserable situation of refugees and migrants on this island – humans being treated as criminals or even worse just because they don’t owe a European passport. Currently 5000 refugees and migrants are residing on the island, approx. 4700 in the new camp “Mavrovouni” in the area of Kara Tepe and by many called Moria 2.0 (numbers updated October 2023). It was “built” few days after the “Reception and Identification Center” called Moria burnt down in September 2020. While in 2015 there were daily arrivals of a couple of thousands continuing their journey a couple of days later to the mainland of Greece. Since 21st of March 2016 the island is “closed” (part of the EU-Turkey Deal).
Main problems is the immense uncertainty and pressure on the asylum seekers, no one informs them properly. The mental health situation is very bad, as living continues within an “emergency mode”, not knowing when and where to go. – also the always changing legal procedure is a huge loss of control. Daily life routine contains hours of waiting in the line for water, for lunch, for one croissant etc. The main camp is basically run by security forces and leaves no humanity for the people “living” inside.
The systematical political decision to isolate people , this is what the European border regime demonstrates here through denying basic human rights and stuck people in search for safety on an island. 99% of the migrants arriving on shore are coming from war zones, either from Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Somalia, Eritrea or the Sudan. The crossing from Turkey to Lesvos is very dangerous. Despite the “few” kilometers, the boats are totally unsafe for the amount of people that sit in there and they mostly wear fake life vests. Many women and children never know how to swim and are the first to drown. Every month there is another tragedy of people loosing their life while a usual ferry boat costs just 10 Euros and you cross safely, if you have the right passport in your hands. Many boats are stopped on their way to safety. Only few people make it through.