by Aggelos Skordas
A memorial honouring refugees who lost their lives trying to reach safety in Europe was vandalized on Wednesday. Specifically, unknown assailants poured black paint on the monument erected in October 2013 by “Youth without borders” on the east coast of Lesvos, after 20 refugees drowned during an attempt to reach the Greek island’s coast in the winter of 2012.
The event was unanimously condemned by the local civil movement “For the coexistence and communication in the Aegean” that was the first to bring the vandalism to public attention. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the movement noted that “one can only wonder what the perpetrator or perpetrators intention was by attacking the memory of those lost people”. The announcement also highlights that “if anything, they have disregarded universal human values and traditions, which our ancestors first highlighted, such as the respect of the dead, no matter who they might be”.
In the peak of the migration crisis, in 2015, hundreds more -including children- would die in the Aegean Sea while crossing from Turkey to Greece. During the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy as the first European Union country of arrival, becoming, in the summer 2015, the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to Northern and Central European countries. By the end of December 2015, more than 820,000 refugees and migrants (mainly from war-torn Syria) reached Greece, while in January and February 2016 over 123,000 more landed in.
On Wednesday more than 250 refugees and migrants of various nationalities belonging to vulnerable groups, such as families with children, single women, elderly and disabled, boarded a ferry boat from the port of Mytilene, Lesvos, to Piraeus. Arriving at Piraeus early on Thursday morning, the migrants boarded to buses along with employees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and were transferred to other structures in Athens and mainland Greece. Similar operations are planned to be carried out in other Eastern Aegean islands hosting a large sum of migrants and refugees.