Lesvos Point Zero

We can argue about politics, the economy, religion and all else we can think of, but there should be no arguments when it comes to human lives in peril.  I come from a country, Greece, that has been facing the worse economic crisis it has ever known in modern history and its people have been suffering more than anyone living outside of the country will ever know.  However, Greece has had to deal with yet another drama, the humanitarian crisis of the refugees.  Thousands of people flood the coasts of Greece on a daily basis and so many lose their lives on their way.  They arrive in boats, piled like cattle, hungry, wet, cold and exhausted.  The few belongings they own fit in a backpack and some don’t even have that.  The fact that these people risk their lives and the lives of their children to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey means that the perilous crossing is safer than dry land.  Desperation and at the same time hope are both etched on their faces.  Upon safe arrival, some dance and sing, others burst into tears. 

The Greek people who face this scene everyday for months now are to be commended:  most try to help in any way they can.  Old women pick up wet clothes from the beaches, wash them and dry them to hand them to the next people arriving and in need for something dry to wear.  Others offer sandwiches and a drink, fishermen help boats in danger and often with the gruesome task of collecting drowned bodies… they all help in their own way and with the little they have.  Sometimes just a big smile and a hug can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  Talking to the locals, I kept hearing the same story: they see history repeating itself.  They can all relate to those refugees, as they were refugees themselves once upon a time when they all arrived in masses from Asia Minor.  “The only difference”, as they said, “ is that no one was waiting for us when we arrived.  We were alone, slept in fields out in the cold and we had nobody to provide for us.  We know very well what these people are going through and we want to help”.

The harsh winter is closing in and the borders of most European countries are shutting down the one after the other.  Europe has on several occasions seen its children migrate for a better life, I think it’s now time for Europe to welcome others in real need of a safer and better life. It’s time for Europe and the whole world to go beyond numbers and statistics and face this huge humanitarian crisis in a responsible way before more lives are lost in the cold and the harshness of the winter.  People’s lives cannot be the object of political blackmail; this should not be a world we would want to live in.

I do not believe that my images do enough justice to what I have witnessed on my trips to Lesvos.  However, if I manage to touch even a few people with these images, I will consider myself successful.  There are still too many people out there who will conveniently shy away from this reality.