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.”

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13 reader comments

  1. Martin says:

    Some people must read behind the headlines as the vast majority of the UK press is biased towards the immigrants. Germany needs migrants – it’s population is decreasing and they need young immigrants (mostly men if you look) to maintain their standard of living. The UKs (England mostly) population is EXPLODING! We do not have Germany’s problem – we have the reverse. That’s why the UK must stand firm against taking in more people. England is already vastly overpopulated – 4th most densley populated country in the world.

    We are an island just over 900 miles long and 400 wide. Schools, hospitals, housing, social services, transport are all at breaking point. Some sanity needs to prevail.

    1. Kate says:

      Please employ the use of google…the Uk is the 53rd most densely populated country…with Germany the 56th.

    2. Andrew Dundas says:

      Hello Martin,
      Not all of the UK is over-crowded. In Scotland we have 30% of the UK’s land space and only 8.3% of the people. Our ‘population’ has been static for 50 years and is held up only because there are more and more wrinklies like myself.
      It would be helpful if we could receive and retain in-comers. Frankly we need them if our end of our island is to prosper.
      Our ‘problem’ is that we are forced into policy that may make sense in the SE, but which is not helpful north of Manchester.
      Please note and inwardly digest.

      1. John says:

        OK! Relocate all the migrants in SCOTLAND and see how it goes down in Galsgow or Edinburgh

    3. Emory Hill says:

      Please encourage your countrymen to be as vocal to the media as possible that the fate of many refugees is in the hands of American voters. A Republican victory in the US will mean the torture and murder of Syrians. We have plenty of space and plenty of good Americans willing to take in many thousands of refugees.

  2. Alan says:

    Emotive reporting has become standard for what the media term ‘ the refugee crisis’. The lack of factual reporting is quite shocking. Pertinent to the article remember community reactions of Dover and Hastings to immigrants? Any of these victims making their way here will not find a welcome reception. British people have empathy so long as the issue isn’t next door.

  3. John says:

    Martin is right. Germany is actually ensuring that Syria never gets back on its feet after someone mercifully gets rid of Assad. They are creaming off the talented/educated/middle class to fill their own population shortage particularly in the east. Yet Channel 4 news uses this “generosity” to lambast the U.K policy which actually is more humane and useful. Why should migrants who can afford to pay smugglers get priority over those rotting in UN camps in Lebanon.

  4. Greg Kaye says:

    Re: “these are families” even here I counted 14 men and 6 women. Other wide panorama scenes show far greater disparities.

    Both for the long term future of overpopulated European countries and for the short term future of various far distant countries that are already are exporting food and other natural resources (and not even caring for their own growing populations) no level of immigration makes any ecological sense.

    I personally think it would be safest to take people with no religious views but to take people who have religiously based disparity of views in on the basis of gender and sexuality makes absolutely no sense.

  5. Bob Hughes says:

    A somewhat disappointing and unfair report on Lesbos last night, where our family has spent 3 weeks this year. The UK expat variously featured as star, hero, saint and martyr of this melodramatic presentation has been doing good deeds for a while, fair enough – and I’ve no doubt the publicity has done no harm – but plenty of other people have, too. Not that you’d get that impression from this item – quite the opposite (“the only welcome they get…”: wrong). The portrayal of the locals in this is particularly one-sided and fails to acknowledge their generosity and immense patience in seeing their lives and businesses put under immense strain. The footage of the “camp” at Molyvos is not identified as the village’s school-yard. Islander-parents’ understandable concerns about their own children’s’ conditions on return to school are not addressed at all. There’s no mention at all of the smiling reception many of the arrivals get when they come into the village, nothing about the donations from various businesses (food, clothes etc), no mention of Melinda at the Captain’s Table co-ordinating reception and setting up a camp behind her restaurant. Good will can understandably be stretched when one person’s generosity is another’s loss of livelihood and/or way of life. I know reporters love a good Hero/Villains line, but let’s have more of the facts and a practical discussion, rather than this blinkered and ultimately unhelpful solo claim to the high moral ground, please.

  6. Joby Fox says:

    I am going over to help ..can anybody give me a contact for the english couple ..or someone I can’co-ordinate with. I am coming from Belfast

    1. John Norton says:

      Why do you not stay at home and look after your own people.I am sure there are many people in Belfast who need help.Charity begins at home.

  7. indiana says:

    Go krish, the action man, helping refugees out of the inflatable dingys

  8. John Hill says:

    I really do not understand the agenda of media.
    Last Friday proved that (some) immigrants have posed as such and are active as we grimly saw, in France last Friday.
    (According to some of the evidence which MEDIA made available in the aftermath of Islamic terror in Paris).
    EU has “open borders”, N Africa has evil regimes which carry out historically disgusting “Customs” (as shown by TV depictions eagerly displayed from time to time)
    Belatedly some EU member states have closed their borders, but not swiftly enough it seems.No doubt our Western mantra of “multiculturalism” has displayed its flaws, disgusting many in the world. How much more revelations of the incompatibility of liestyles do our leaders NEED before their Penny drops???

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