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As Migrants Wash Ashore, Greek Island Residents Come To Their Aid

Migrants arrive Monday on the Greek island of Chios, where residents have been assisting the new arrivals.
John Liakos
Migrants arrive Monday on the Greek island of Chios, where residents have been assisting the new arrivals.

Migrants are arriving in record numbers in Greece, and two boatloads of men, women and children landed Monday on the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea.

All Things Considered host Melissa Block has relatives in her extended family on the island. Her husband's cousins have been assisting the migrants, who are arriving via Turkey from Afghanistan and Syria, as they reach the rocky shores.

She spoke with one of those cousins, Maria Vlassopoulos, who has been helping the migrants at Yiossonas beach, which is next to the family's house on the island.

Interview Highlights

On the scene at the beach

Sometimes [migrants] arrive on our shore and the first thing they ask me is, "Where are we? Are we in Greece, are we in Italy, are we in Turkey?" ... We have 15 boats down on our beach. If you put 15 times 50, it makes quite a lot of migrants just on our little beach. Apparently about 400 people a day are arriving in Chios.

On how local residents are helping the migrants

The first day was a bit of a panic because we didn't know what to expect. So we just went down to the beach and then we saw the situation with the mothers crying and the babies wet through and through — they're all wet through and through, and they've lost their shoes and their cellphones are wet. So we didn't know what to do in the beginning, but since then we have got quite organized.

We went and bought supplies and we have biscuits and we have water. Pampers are very important. We give them first aid. We try to soothe them, basically. It's calming them down, telling them, "You're safe, you're in Europe, nobody's going to chase you, nobody's going to kill you."

And then the port authority arrives when we call them, who is the same young man, always.

Resources are really short here and what he does is he takes down their names. They don't have identification papers ever, but he writes down their names as they declare them.

On the condition of the migrants when they arrive

They're very dehydrated. Some of the babies are very limp. ... Some of them have not seen the sea before, so this is a very new experience for them.

On local reaction to the migrants

There's no negativity. Whoever you talk to says, "The poor people, you know, they're running away from war." The first couple of boatloads, I just couldn't believe what these people had gone through. I imagined our children being in that situation and it was really moving for me. But now, you know, humans become used to things and I'm not in pieces the way I was in the beginning. We have been through a lot in Greece in the past six months, as you know, and we've been feeling sorry for ourselves. This really puts things in perspective.

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