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Lesbos Mayor Attacks EU as Refugees Continue to Arrive

  • Henry Ridgwell

As the rising sun slowly burned away the sea mist early Monday on the eastern beaches of Lesbos, volunteer rescuers got their first glimpse of the incoming human cargo.

Two dinghies appeared on the horizon, but they were rapidly intercepted and detained by boats from the Greek coast guard and European border force Frontex.

Like many volunteers, Spanish rescuer Manuel Elviro Vidal is angry at what he sees as inhuman treatment of refugees seeking sanctuary.

"All night long, all night long, the cat is catching the mouse, you know,” Vidal said. “Six big boats from [the EU border agency] Frontex, [with] Greeks, Turkish, a lot of people, different people. It is like a wall. It is like a wall."

Lesbos resident Rebecca Michaelides has been helping coordinate the volunteer rescuers from the start.

FILE - Refugees and migrants are seen on a dinghy as they approach the Ayios Efstratios Coast Guard vessel, during a rescue operation in the open sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Lesbos, Feb. 8, 2016.

FILE - Refugees and migrants are seen on a dinghy as they approach the Ayios Efstratios Coast Guard vessel, during a rescue operation in the open sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Lesbos, Feb. 8, 2016.

"We really just do not know from one day to the next what is going to happen,” she said. “But we are hoping that they can still come through and get through to us to help them."

Intercepting refugees

But it appears that Europe and Turkey are determined to intercept the refugees. After Monday's rescue, they were brought ashore — cold, traumatized, exhausted — and bused to Moria refugee camp on the island, which is rapidly turning into a secure detention center.

Under the new agreement, they should be sent back to Turkey. However, there is no indication of when or how that will happen.

Lesbos Mayor Spyros Gallinos told VOA he has had no clarity from Athens or Brussels.

The new deal has been forced on Lesbos, Gallinos says, adding that EU policymakers dragged their feet for a year and a half in finding any kind of solution for the migration issue, and then overnight came up with a decision that they want to enforce immediately.

For now, though, the threat of deportation to Turkey is not putting off the migrants.

Two refugees were found dead in one boat Sunday. Doctors from the charity Boat Refugee Foundation say it was so overloaded, they likely drowned in a crush as the dinghy began to take on water.

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