Over 293,000 signatures from around the world have been gathered by an internet campaign for Greek Islanders to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to save thousands of refugees.
According to recent data from Frontex, approximately 880,000 refugees arrived in Greece in 2015, with three islands; Lesvos, Chios and Samos, taking in the vast majority.
“The common people of Greek islands and other volunteers are on the front line of the refugee crisis for months. For the compassion and bravery as they face those threatened with humanity and as an example to the world, we citizens from around the world suggest as candidates these courageous men and women for the Nobel Peace Prize, “said the text of the campaign. The deadline for applications is 1 February.
Turkish people form the cities of Izmir and Bodrum, the main launch points for refugees, are similarly saving dozens every day. Turkish fishermen in particular are now spending much of their work hours engaged in rescue operations. Despite such civilian humanitarian projects and individual acts in both countries; efforts are limited and activists are calling upon authorities in Greece and Turkey to do more.
2016 has become a record year for both refugee arrivals and deaths at sea according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). In the first three weeks of January alone, fatalities have reached 113, which is more than the past two Januaries combined. During these weeks, some 37,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy and Greece by sea, which is 10 times the total of 2015.
“What we are witnessing in the Aegean Sea is even more horrendous than what we experienced in the Mediterranean. Due to the shorter distances, smugglers take increased risks at the expense of the refugees, often giving them worthless lifejackets and inflatable boats that simply cannot reach shore. Despite worsening weather conditions, refugees continue to make the desperate crossing, many times finding themselves washed onto jagged rocks and sustaining serious injuries,” said Christopher Catrambone the founder of MOAS, a charity dedicated to saving lives at sea by providing professional search and rescue to people in distress.