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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora