Greek migrant hotel no one wants to stay at
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.
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.
(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.