News / Europe

    Greek Hoteliers Offer Respite to Weary Migrants

    Syrian children at the Mediterranean Palace Hotel enjoying their respite from the hunger, cold and misery of the refugee trail, Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, northern Greece, March 6, 2016. (Photo: J.Dettmer/VOA).
    Syrian children at the Mediterranean Palace Hotel enjoying their respite from the hunger, cold and misery of the refugee trail, Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, northern Greece, March 6, 2016. (Photo: J.Dettmer/VOA).

    Locals in northern Greece are divided about the flood of war refugees. Some say asylum-seekers cause chaos and steal. Others express deep sympathy for their plight, including staff at a five-star hotel in Thessaloniki, which last week boarded some refugees.

    You expect fine service at a five-star hotel, but if you’re a penniless refugee you don’t expect to stay; if you can scrape some coins together, maybe you might slip into the Fugitive Motel.

    Last week, a group of 55 disheveled, exhausted Syrian and Iraqi asylum-seekers – children included – stayed for a few days at the Mediterranean Palace Hotel, a landmark establishment in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.

    Their stay came after enduring weeks of misery, hunger and illness at the makeshift refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian border at Idomeni, hoping to be allowed to travel farther north into the European Union.

    A migrant holds her child as she queues for food portions at the Greek border camp near Idomeni, March 10, 2016.
    A migrant holds her child as she queues for food portions at the Greek border camp near Idomeni, March 10, 2016.

    Eleni Gourbatsi, 35, is a receptionist at the hotel and was heartbroken when they arrived.

    “They were very tired, they were hungry, they were exhausted, you could see that in their eyes and all over their body," Gourbatsi said. "And when they came down after they took a shower they were different people”

    Hotel accommodations

    The refugees were accommodated at the hotel overlooking the city’s historic sea-passenger terminal by a local Greek NGO as a way-station after they had applied to enter the European Union relocation scheme. They stayed at the hotel as transport was being arranged for them to Athens.

    For the refugees the hotel provided a respite. It gave them a chance to catch their breath and wash the few clothes they had with them. Some didn’t even have a change of clothes.

    And one child was ill. Hotel staff arranged a visit to a private hospital, which waived subsequently any charges for the months-old baby, who was suffering from a severe respiratory infection; which has reached epidemic proportions among refugee kids at Idomeni.

    The refugees had a major emotional impact on hotel staff, prompting a gentleness and protectiveness that not even money can buy. The concierge could frequently be spotted slipping candies to the kids. Staff donated clothes, bought diapers and medicine.

    And during their stay the refugees could be seen to unwind. The children, quiet and subdued at first, were soon giggling. One Iraqi boy couldn’t contain himself to explain to everyone he met how he’d seen the sea and gone swimming in the hotel pool.

    When the refugees left, some hotel staff wept.

    Some unsympathetic

    But not all locals in northern Greece are as sympathetic.

    Soupli Xanthoula is a sub-mayor at Idomeni and says the villagers were patient at first but are now frustrated. She claims some refugees have been stealing, and the villagers – mainly farmers – are worried because the camp keeps on spreading. Refugees are tramping across farm fields, damaging them.

    But Eleni Gourbatsi says locals should remain sympathetic.

    “I am very sad for all of this situation that is happening," Gourbatsi said. "Seeing them and facing them it was really like, ‘This is true and I see that now.’ Seeing them here it makes you feel like, ‘What is going on in the world, who is sending them away from their homes?’ I want to meet them and I want to say, ‘Who are you and why?’ ”

    But with 44,000 refugees now trapped in Greece and authorities predicting there will be 100,000 by the end of March, the sympathy many Greeks feel will start being stretched.  

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora