When the Mayor of Kastellorizo Threw Women and Children on the Street

Kastellorizo is a dreamy little Greek island off the shore of Turkey. It’s the most distant inhabited outpost of Greece, and is therefore pretty much a military base with tourism on top. A military ship constantly hums in the port, a brand-spanking new coast guard vessel is there as well, plenty of speedboats patrol the seas and the sailors, coast guards, police and soldiers sit in the restaurants on the boardwalk playing cards, chatting and fiddling with their worry beads.

The town of Kastellorizo
The town of Kastellorizo

Recently refugees started coming here in large numbers, maybe because of stricter warship patrols further north. In two days nearly one thousand refugees came onto this island of about 200 people. For a while they were allowed to stay in a community center, but after the mayor ordered the island “cleared up” of refugees he closed the center and issued an eviction order to volunteers distributing clothes downtown. But not all refugees had left. Five women, one of them pregnant and one elderly, and ten children under five years of age, were waiting for their husbands and fathers to come from Turkey. They were told go to out with no place to stay.

Refugees being cleared off Kastellorizo onto a MOAS boat
Refugees being cleared off Kastellorizo onto a MOAS boat

The UNHCR has tried for a while to get permission to build a camp here, but the mayor refuses. The women and children got put up by the UNHCR representative here, but there’s no plan for the next arrival. Today, 87 people came on a boat, and the mayor is probably counting his blessings that a ferry is coming in the afternoon so they can be taken away. These ferries come twice a week, so maybe he’ll get MOAS to bring away refugees to Rhodes again, as they did in the “clearup” action last Thursday.

Life jackets on Kastellorizo's rocky shore
Life jackets on Kastellorizo’s rocky shore

Yesterday, the Greek government forbade refugees from coming to the mainland from the islands. The camps in Athens, gas stations on the way north and the camps at the border are all stuffed and the border is closing to more and more people – most recently Afghans. New camps are being built and opened. Greece is turning into the refugee detention center of Europe.

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When the Mayor of Kastellorizo Threw Women and Children on the Street