“I know in Syria we have war and bombs every day,” Amir, told Reuters. But there, “every Syrian dies once. Here we die every day. Every day is bad.”
For the past six months, home is a tent on the beautiful Aegean island of Chios. The island’s climate is warm and moderate, categorized as Temperate, Mediterranean, with modest variation due to the stabilizing effect of the surrounding sea. Average temperatures normally range from a summer high of 27 °C (81 °F) to a winter low of 11 °C (52 °F) in January.
Much as Chios is famous for its mastic, it is not the only “magic” one can find on this island. Alongside its rich history starting from the Neolithic Age and including adventures with Saracene pirates and the Turks during the Greek Revolution, Chios also claims to be the birthplace of Homer. It was certainly the birthplace of eminent Greek politicians and writers such as Adamantios Korais, Emmanouil Roidis and Alexandre Mavrokordatos.
Migrants are prevented from going beyond Greece, or even Chios, under a deal agreed in March between the European Union and Ankara that will see those who do not qualify for asylum sent back to Turkey, from where they arrived.
Some Greeks are resistant to the mass migration after the Greek island of Lesbos has been turned into a war zone by rioting migrants, leaving the island’s 85,000 residents in despair. Around 25,000 migrants are currently camped out on the island with hundreds more arriving daily, leading to frequent violent clashes and rioting despite their claim to be fleeing violence.
Although upset about conditions on the island, migrants made things much worse when they set fire to their camps in June. Assaults and other crimes are rampant in the tent community due to intoxicated refugee fights.
The couple fled the wrecked city of Homs for Europe and arrived in Greece on March 19 – a day before the EU-Turkey deal was implemented – but were barred from leaving the island. Since then, they have been interviewed twice, but have yet to be given any information on their fate, they said.
The process – which includes rough identity checks, interviews and an assessment of whether Turkey is safe or not for a particular individual – can take weeks. Applicants can appeal a negative decision, prolonging the procedure.
Even though arrivals have slowed to a hundred or so a day from thousands last year, about 13,000 refugees and migrants are currently on the islands, up from about 5,000 in March. Over 3,500 are on Chios alone.
“We wait,” Walaa told Reuters, stirring sugar into tea, “but what we wait for, I don’t know.”
Each day, she checks a board for when their number – 10,624 – will be called. But they are not called in any particular order, so it’s anyone’s guess when that may be – “maybe tomorrow, maybe after one week,” authorities say.