It is increasingly well known by now that a number Greek islands – and particularly those relatively close to Turkey have seen increasing numbers of refugees arrive on their shores in recent months.
Most of those attempting the risky crossing are fleeing war, beheadings and utter devastation wrought by the likes of ISIS and the Taliban in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many would see this mass exodus as what it is: namely a logical reaction by ordinary people to unspeakable levels of violence. As a number of journalists have reported, many of those arriving in Greece include families with young children who left their home countries out of desperation and fear for their lives. Far from impoverished and illiterate, many of the refugees are well-educated including doctors, lawyers and engineers – indeed the poorer often cannot afford to make the journey which costs thousands of euros in fees to people smugglers.
Most remain on the islands for a few weeks at most, before being given papers that will allow them to travel on to mainland Greece. The often-hazardous sea crossing into Greece is only one leg of a much longer journey for the refugees seeking to reach northern Europe, a journey that is often arduous, dangerous and has no guarantees of success.
Serious reporters writing for respectable news outlets have focused repeatedly on the plight of the refugees, as well as on the European indifference to the human suffering on its doorstep.
The Daily Mail, on the other hand, chose in a recent article to focus on how the presence of refugees was spoiling the holidays of many Britons on the island of Kos. The story rightfully drew angry responses from readers across the political spectrum on Twitter and elsewhere for its use of language depicting the refugees as little more than human litter that was inconveniencing the poor holidaying westerners.
Describing the refugees as ‘straggly migrants’ and ‘boat people’ with ‘grubby headscarves’ (indeed the word refugee was barely mentioned in the article as originally posted) the author even went so far as to maintain that the people fleeing war were turning the lives of those on holiday into a ‘nightmare’. Several tourists were quoted in the article describing how the presence of the migrants on the island had made them feel uncomfortable.
The piece was such an egregious affront to human dignity that even the editorial staff at the Daily Mail appeared moved to tidy up some of the more offensive language in an edit of the online piece as journalist Damian Mac Con Uladh has pointed out:
Many of those that are holidaying on the island of Kos have now also rejected the story’s basic assertions about how severely the island has been affected by the wave of refugees.
In an online forum on the site Tripadvisor, one user asked:
“We are due in Kos in august but have read an article in the news today regarding the influx of immigrants to the area. Is there any problems with this and is there any reason we should look to go elsewhere?”
The question has received over 200 responses from users of the site, with the vast majority arguing that the situation should in no way dissuade visitors who had planned on visiting Kos from traveling to the island. Many note that while the increased number of refugees on the island was noticeable, the Daily Mail article had done much to distort the actual reality on the ground. Below are some of the responses:
“There's absolutely no reason not to go to Kos. The people who are being smuggled onto Kos using small boats aren't immigrants as such, they're refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria. If I was caught between Assad's army and ISIS, I'd run for my life too. They mostly have passports and other ID and many have money too, a lot of these people are the Westernised Syrian middle class, there are doctors, engineers, teachers and lawyers. As a result the police are able to process them quickly and they are transferred to Athens by ferry as fast as possible to avoid overstretching resources on Kos. If you do see them on Kos I doubt if you'd pick them out from other short-term visitors.”
Hi there we were there last week. There were lots and lots of syrians(we think) laying by the harbour and children beggars. It's such a shame but as the previous poster said it's understandable. They all had rucksacks and I saw plenty of times they had better phones cameras gadgets than even I had. And as sad as it sounds we saw parents which had packs and packs of nappies with them - something that wealthier refugees could only afford. I would not let this deter you away from kos. We still had a lovely time and will be returning back next year :-) can't wait.
I was also in Kos (Psalidi) and there was no problems with refugees/immigrants. They mostly congregate around the police station and marina in KOS town. If you get up early enough you catch them coming ashore
Absolutely 100% agree with Andy.
The British media scaremongering is, at times borderline lunacy......Of course there are problems with refugees escaping from God knows what kind of hell? Personally, we are back in Kos in 5 weeks, back again in September and booked already for 2016.
I am sure the Greek and Italian authorities, are working overtime to relocate these people as quickly and as gently as possible.
Let us all hope that the situation in Syria is eased soon and that these people can return home to restart and rebuild their shattered lives. Until then, let us, however long our holidays last, Thank God we can return back to our homes and families, with nothing more than a bit of push and shove at a Kos airport.
Its fine been to the police station this morning and everything safe, don't listen to the media bad news sells better :(
We are going to Kos tomorrow and looking forward to it. I have nothing but sympathy for those people who fled their homes with nothing more than a few possessions. We should all show a little compassion for these people and stop moaning that their presence is going to spoil our holidays. How would feel if you had to live in a hell-hole like Syria?
Sorry, but the attitude of some people is really hard to swallow.
I have to agree with MISTY. We returned from Lesvos last Saturday. On our transfer coach back to the airport, we saw refugees trekking across the hills, we can only assume heading for the port, still some 50+ kilometres away. Believe me, when you see this for yourself, it is truly shocking and heart-wrenching. I felt incredibly uncomfortable in my cosy little spot, where is our humanity in these times when so many people are being displaced? Just hope and pray that, should it ever happen to us and we're escaping a war zone with nothing but what we can carry, we won't be written off as a threat to everyone else. For those of you who are holidaying soon in Greece, we also saw refugees in the harbour at Molyvos, they sat together and kept themselves to themselves. I believe you have no more to fear from such people than you do walking any street in the UK. Please continue to support Greece, it is a wonderful country and needs the income from tourism.
Must admit I have been to Greece every year for the past dozen or so and this year having read all the forums I am terrified.
terrified that I might end up in a place with a Michael Jackson tribute act.
Terrified that I might enjoy my visit to Crete So much I will wonder why I never went before.
Terrified that I will need to eat in family tavernas as I am not going all inclusive.
Terrified that the beer glasses may be too cold.
Terrified that when I get home tomatoes etc will never taste as good again.
Please accept the fact that you are privileged enough to be able to travel freely and show some humanity to people who are there because of their need - it won't spoil your holiday and it well also help the greek economy.
The British tabloid press is simply disgusting and unfortunately many people read these so-called "newspapers" uncritically and have all their prejudices confirmed. I'm appalled to see posts asking "will the refugees spoil my holiday?". I've seen reports of how the wonderful local Greek people are helping the refugees in every way they can, and I'm heartened to see some tourists are also helping to distribute food and water. Let's all try to show some compassion and be grateful that we have safe, comfortable homes to go back to.