Last year, the small village of Skala Sykmias, located in the Greek Islands, became the center of the refugee crisis. After an often-brutal Mediterranean crossing, as many as 400,000 refugees have landed on the beaches near the village in the last few years. They’ve come from war torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. As the crisis escalated, Europe’s coastguard, Pinteris, called on Greek fishermen to help locate sinking refugee boats off the coast-line.
“We never know what the day will be like,” says local fisherman, Kostas Pinteris. “It’s really difficult. There’s a lot of stress. When you’re the only fisherman around, and there are people in the water everywhere around you, you panic.”
At first, Ms. Pinteris says, the locals saw the refugees as an imposition – tourism is down 40% and many fishermen were too busy with rescue missions to actually fish. But soon locals became more tolerant and empathetic. “After having experienced what we have this year, with women and children in the water screaming for help, many people’s world views have changed,” says Mr. Pinteris.
To date, more than 50,000 people are reported to be “stuck” in temporary camps throughout Greece and are not allowed to continue their migration to Western Europe due to the Greece-Macedonia borders closing back in February.