Europe is buckling under the pressure of one of the biggest mass migrations since World War II, with countries and relief groups scrambling to aid hundreds of thousands of refugees making their way from war-stricken parts of the Middle East and Africa. Greece in particular has been dealt the worst of the influx, with the island of Lesvos being a key entry point for migrants hoping for security and a better life further west.
Islamic Relief (IR) are amongst the NGOs currently conducting humanitarian work on the island, with a full response team having spent the past five days aiding new arrivals. The organisation’s Mosab Borat has described the situation in Lesvos as “dire”, and says the influx is putting an immense strain on local resources.
“People were arriving from Turkey to the north of the island and making a trek to the south, where they could get registered and move on. But because a lack of capacity and local administration being severely under strain, more and more people were just arriving,” he explained, adding that some were walking up to three days from the north to the south of Lesvos just to get registered.
Despite the crisis, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and local and international NGO’s have been able to “get a handle on things”, at least according to Borat.
From a Middle Eastern perspective the root cause of the migrations has been the on-going civil war in Syria, with an unprecedented number of Syrians opting to leave the country’s refugee camps for safer living conditions in Europe.
“The main route they are using to is from Turkey into the Greek islands and from there to the mainland. From there they are making the journey forward…What is happening is that on the journey it has become a dire humanitarian situation, because of the sheer numbers that are moving,” he stated.
The numbers that are attempting the journey continue to be vague, although the UN has stated that it expects 850 000 people will attempt the cross the Mediterranean over the next two years. According to Borat their remains no concrete tracking system in place to gauge just how many are making the journey. On the island he said they are witnessing numbers ranging well into the tens of thousands.
And although IR is trying its utmost to help as many refugees as possible, Borat says the organisation remains limited by a shortage of resources. The needs in Lesvos are very much the basics; food, water, shelter, clothing and medical supplies are most needed.
“What’s really clear is that regardless of what the spectrum of attitudes is across Europe, people feel that they are safer in Europe than they are in Turkey or Syria
They don’t feel they have hope of going to their homes (in Syria), and their children can be raised in a safe place around there,” he added.” VOC (Mubeen Banderker)