‘Soon we ourselves will be refugees’

PORTRAIT 18 – LESVOS – MYTILINI HARBOUR – JULY 2016

Nearby the statue of independence in the harbor of Mytilini, many Greeks enjoy a refreshing dive in the water on this warm summer day. At the same time a group Pakistani sits under a tree nearby and watches.

An older man tries to put on his goggles with trembling hands. To the question whether he lives here, he starts grinning: “Yes, I’m a Lesbian. That’s how they call the people of this island, though everywhere in the world it has a different meaning”, he says with twinkling eyes.

Portret 18- Lesbos ©Vluchtelingen in Europa

His face turns serious when we ask him what he thinks of life on Lesvos nowadays. “These are very rough times…”  He tries to explain his feelings further but his English is insufficient. It’s clear that the subject matters a lot to him. A woman approached and fully agrees with him. She’s 49 years and has lived on the island her entire life. Never before has she been as pessimistic as now about Lesvos. “Pensions for elderly, like this gentleman, have been hugely cut these past years. I still have my job as a clerk, but many residents are jobless. There are hardly any tourists and instead a lot of refugees,  who disturb our everyday life.” She points at the group up ahead. “These men are not accustomed to women in bikini. It’s not really pleasant to swim here when there’s a group of men watching your every move from a distance.” It’s not like these men have ever mistreated her in any way, but it feels unpleasant.

“Of course some of them are really refugee and those we must help, but among them are also many economic migrants. I find it horrible that people take such risks with their own live and those of their children. It’s life-threatening to put your child on such a rickety boat and cross the sea.”

It’s obvious she feels that the magnitude of tragedy of which the people on Lesvos have had to deal with these past years is too high.
She’s even more pessimistic about the future. “It’s hopeless. People here have their budget continually being cut and barely have any money to live. The way things are going, we ourselves will become refugees…”

Would you like to know more about the circumstances in Lesvos? Read: About Lesvos