9 Sep 2015

Refugee crisis: the fifth boat to land on Lesbos this morning alone

The boats pop into view as if from nowhere, frighteningly low in the water, snaking from left to right looking for a place to land on the northern shore of Lesbos.

Why here? Because it’s 6km across the Mytilini Strait from Turkey to Greece.

A window of flat calm water with no wind has prompted a mad dash of boats. There were twenty seven yesterday. The one we filmed was the fifth this morning.

As the boat approaches the shore we can see the panic still set on the people’s faces. These are families – with several young children on board and a couple of elderly. It is being steered by one of the refugees themselves – the people traffickers don’t drive the boats much anymore for fear of arrest.

Scared and dizzy they fall over each other to get out as it approaches. A teenager carrying a younger child falls in the water as the others start scrambling ashore. If anything – despite having made it to safety the panic seems to be rising.

There is nobody from the government or aid agencies to help them, even though they all know exactly what is happening.

A couple of tourists from Britain and Belgium are here and start pulling people onto the beach. We all give out whatever water and snacks we have with us.

Everyone starts walking – without any real idea where. It is forty miles to the processing centres in Mytilini and until a couple of days ago most people were walking. Now the Greeks have put on buses – but the stop is a couple of miles away.

The locals descend on the empty boats. They rush to grab them as the refugees walk ashore.


Scuppering the dinghies with large knives the coastline here is littered with black rubber and piles of lifejackets. But the engines are valuable – and are carted away in cars and vans.

If nobody claims them – and I doubt the people traffickers will – it is finders keepers.

There is no doubt, if you go to the processing centres, that people are coming here from all sorts of countries and there are several economic migrants.

But everyone we saw this morning was from Syria or Iraq. It is hard when you see the looks on their faces and hear their stories not to be moved.

I asked one of the Brits on the beach how she felt about the debate back home about how many asylum seekers to take in. “If only they heard the stories,” she said, “Germany has put us to shame.”

Follow @krishgm on Twitter

Tweets by @krishgm