The awkward truth about the refugees in Kos the tourists would rather went away

(The Indipendent, Dispatches) British tourists have ‘complained’ about desperate migrants pouring into the Greek island of Kos making their holidays “awkward”. The Daily Mail two days ago reported that British tourists on the Greek island Kos complained about asylum seekers ruining their holidays and turning the island into a “disgusting hellhole.”

More than 1,500 men, women and children have landed in the last week as the influx of people fleeing conflict and poverty continues.

Homeless and carrying the only remnants of their former lives in bags, they have been left to seek shelter in an abandoned hotel or on seaside arcades as authorities struggle to cope.

The migrant crisis has coincided with the half term break for British schools, seeing hundreds of families arriving for some early summer sun this week.

Anne Servante, a nurse from Manchester, told the Daily Mail that Kos had become “disgusting”.

“It’s really dirty and messy here now,” she added. “And it’s awkward. I’m not going to sit in a restaurant with people watching you.”

Another British couple on holiday with their grandchildren told the newspaper that they “don’t like it”, adding: “We won’t be coming back if it’s like a refugee camp again next year.”

The comments sparked outrage on Twitter, where people said they were “speechless” that comparatively wealthy holidaymakers could seemingly feel so little empathy for people risking their lives to flee warzones.

“My heart bleeds,” one person sarcastically tweeted, while another added: “It’s not the migrants who make Kos a disgusting hellhole, it’s the British tourists who do.”

Photographs show tourists cycling past families of migrants waiting for travel permits, while topless holidaymakers stroll by a homeless man sleeping on a bench.

Migrants sit on cardboard boxes while people walk past with bags full of shopping and women wash their children’s clothes in the sea as locals watch from the promenade.

Men, women, and children fleeing war in Syria and pervasive violence and persecution in Afghanistan. Nour, a young Palestinian from Syria, fled for fear of the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS). “They kill people, cut heads, harm us psychologically. Once, I was walking at night and I stepped on something, grabbed it to see what it was, and felt some kind of hair. It was a head. That’s why we left.” Mubarek left northern Afghanistan with his wife and three young sons because of the threat of the Taliban: “Every day the Taliban take people and children for suicide bombings. I was worried about my sons.”

“I also heard about the grim conditions on Kos. There is no reception facility, so police take migrants and asylum seekers to an abandoned hotel with makeshift beds, limited running water, and no electricity. Others sleep in tents provided by Doctors without Borders, while still others are left on the streets.

There’s a lot Greece needs to do to set up a functioning reception system on its islands in the Aegean. The European Union as a whole should support Greece more to ensure adequate shelter, food, and basic healthcare to those arriving at Europe’s door.

About 30,000 migrants have entered Greece so far this year and the country is calling for more help from the EU. The Red Cross declared an emergency last week after more than five times as many migrants arrived in Greece by sea in the first four months of 2015 than during the same period the year before.