Greek mi­grant ho­tel no one wants to stay at

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SERENE AS­SIR

The car­cass of an aban­doned ho­tel on the Greek is­land of Kos has be­come a grim shel­ter for scores of mi­grants flee­ing war and poverty as Europe faces its worst refugee cri­sis in decades.

Dozens of peo­ple sit around the empty swimming pool, oth­ers lie on mat­tresses cram­ming the re­cep­tion area of the Cap­tain Elias ho­tel, while tents and huts cob­bled to­gether from card­board and branches fill the gar­den.

The fields be­yond serve as toi­lets, the fence as a wash­ing line to dry clothes.

“No one has come to give us food in four days. And even when some­one comes, it’s never enough. We are too many peo­ple here,” said Er­sha, a 25-year-old engi­neer from Herat, Afghanistan, who has run out of money af­ter pay­ing smug­glers US$5,000 (4,500 eu­ros) to reach Kos.

The Greek is­land has come to sym­bol­ize Europe’s sham­bolic re­sponse to the refugee cri­sis which EU Mi­gra­tion Com­mis­sioner Dim­itris Avramopou­los de­scribed on Fri­day as “the worst since the Sec­ond World War.”

Last week their were chaotic scenes when over­whelmed po­lice beat mi­grants with trun­cheons and sprayed them with fire ex­tin­guish­ers at a sports sta­dium on the is­land, where 2,000 refugees had been gath­ered for pro­cess­ing.

Many, like the res­i­dents of the ho­tel, had been sleep­ing rough on the is­land for weeks.

“I have been here 17 days. I want to go to Athens, and then to Ger­many or Swe­den,” said Er­sha, who trav­eled from Afghanistan to Greece via Pak­istan, Iran and Tur­key to flee “kid­nap­ping and bomb­ings.”

“In Afghanistan, each man has a mili­tia and you must obey some­body. I wanted another life,” he said.

But he and many oth­ers at the Cap­tain Elias feel aban­doned. The ho­tel is not an of­fi­cial shel­ter, and there­fore of­fers its in­hab­i­tants prac­ti­cally noth­ing.

Behna, who came to Kos from Iran, said, “The sit­u­a­tion here is very bad. In the night there is no elec­tric­ity, so we all sleep at 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. It is very sad.”

‘Peo­ple like you and me’

A cou­ple from the United States drive up to the ho­tel, and dozens of peo­ple rush out­side to greet them.

They are vol­un­teers who have come and hand out much-needed food, wa­ter and nap­pies for the ba­bies.

At first, laugh­ter rings out from the crowd as peo­ple grab at or­anges, toma­toes and wa­ter bot­tles. But sheer des­per­a­tion trig­gers a fist fight be­tween two of the mi­grants, and it takes their friends to sep­a­rate them.

Women and chil­dren look on, some of the younger ones cry­ing in con­fu­sion.

Sirus, one of the vol­un­teers, is a sailor who lives and works on boats all year round with his wife.

“We’re or­di­nary cit­i­zens who are try­ing to give a hand. I don’t know where the gov­ern­ments are,” said Sirus, who is in his 40s and did not give his last name.

“They’re just nor­mal peo­ple just like you and I, try­ing to make their way in the world,” he told AFP.

His wife Brooke Foot handed out col­or­ing books and pen­cils to the chil­dren.

“It’s a pretty des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion. It’s over­whelm­ing. There’s not enough aid,” she said.

‘Un­ac­cept­able’

The cou­ple, who have only been in Kos for two days, are among a hand­ful of lo­cals and tourists who are step­ping up to help in the ab­sence of gov­ern­men­tal as­sis­tance.

“There is no or­ga­nized sys­tem for food dis­tri­bu­tion for peo­ple at the Cap­tain Elias,” said U.N. refugee agency spokes­woman Stella Nanou.

“It’s not an of­fi­cial shel­ter; we call on author­i­ties to des­ig­nate a spe­cific place where those peo­ple can go,” she said.

Athens and Kos author­i­ties blame each other — and the Euro­pean Union — for the short­fall.

AFP

(Top) A mi­grant, ex­hausted, rests on the beach af­ter fail­ing to board a boat to the Greek is­land of Kos on early Sun­day, Aug. 16 off the shore of Bo­drum, south­west Tur­key. Author­i­ties on the is­land of Kos have been so over­whelmed that the gov­ern­ment sent a ferry to serve as a tem­po­rary cen­ter to is­sue travel doc­u­ments to Syr­ian refugees — among some 7,000 mi­grants stranded on the is­land of about 30,000 peo­ple. The early hours are the safest time for mi­grants trav­el­ing from Tur­key to the Greek is­lands just across the wa­ter, which have seen a huge in­flux of refugees es­cap­ing the civil war in Syria and chaos in Afghanistan since the be­gin­ning of this year. (Above) Syr­ian mi­grants dis­em­bark from an over­crowded dinghy upon their ar­rival to the coast of the Greek is­land of Kos from Tur­key, Satur­day, Aug. 15.

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