Migrant portraits: On the road from Molyvos to Mytilene
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As EU states bicker over refugee quotas and border controls, the Greek island of Lesbos continues to carry much of the burden of the crisis as Europe’s main gateway for migrants.
in Molyvos, Greece
If they survive the perilous boat journey from Turkey, fleeing refugees will take to the road by bus, on foot, by hitchhiking or by paying for passage in taxis and private vehicles.
Most, however, will pass through the small, picturesque village of Molyvos on the road to Mytilene.
‘Athens is like my mother’
Osman Hussein is a tailor who had lived in Athens for 18 years before returning to Syria. He fled, paying $1,200 to get from Turkey to Lesbos, after his wife and 6-year-old son were killed in an aerial bombing in Azaz.
“Two, three times a day bombs fall in my town. I’d rather sleep on the streets anywhere than stay in Syria – there’s so much killing,” Osman said.
“If I can get papers here I will stay in Greece. I speak the language. Athens is like my mother.”
‘Christians or Muslims – we are brothers’
Laooay is a 24-year-old Syrian veterinary doctor, also from Azaz, who arrived in Molyvos after two days in Turkey without food or water. He paid $1,500 to get here and hopes to head to Germany to continue his studies. He said relations between Christians and Muslims in Damascus and Azur are good, but that “Assad and Daesh (the Islamic State group) want to make divisions between us”.
“To stop the war Assad must go and Daesh has to go,” he said.
“If you are young you must fight with either Assad or terrorists – you have no other choice,” he said.
Laooay said he was surprised by the help he has received from the Greek people who are “hospitable, friendly and they give us food”.
‘I was shot at by the Turkish army’
Mahmoud Baker, a Syrian father of five, arrived from Aleppo with his wife and children and managed to find refuge in Agalia, a one-room locally run reception centre for migrants in neighbouring Kalloni. He said he paid more than €5,000 to a Turkish smuggler who took his passport, mobile phone and other belongings.
“He left me at the border near Bulgaria and told me it was a half-hour walk to Greece,” Baker said.
“I tried to cross but the Turkish army tried to shoot me.”
He will eventually head to Germany, where his 12-year-old son is waiting for the rest of the family. Will he return to Syria when the conflict ends? “I don’t think it will end soon,” he said.
‘ISIS threatened me for treating female patients’
Manaf and Nada are from Manbij in Syria and were married only three weeks before finding themselves in Molyvos. Manaf, a 29-year-old cardiologist intern, said he was entering Europe “illegally” because Germany had rejected his three successive applications for asylum.
“I have doctor friends there who were accepted into Germany,” he said. “But after three years of trying, this is the only way I can get out of Syria.”
“ISIS stopped me in the street and threatened me for treating female patients,” he said.
“They control social services, and any person can be stopped and killed at any time.”
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