Lesbos, A Greek Refuge
On the island of Lesbos, the slow and rustic rhythms of Greek life rule. Sheep block traffic as they amble across mountain roads, bells clanking. At a seaside tavern, diners nibble on freshly caught calamari under the generous boughs of an old mulberry tree.
This is a routine Sunday afternoon at Myrivilis’ Mulberry tavern in Skala Sikaminias, a fishing village of about 100 residents on the northern tip of Lesbos, Greece’s third-largest island. It’s a sharp contrast from last autumn, when the restaurant’s calamari fisherman was busy hauling sea-soaked asylum seekers to dry land, and waiters turned tables into makeshift hospital beds for shipwrecked survivors treated for hypothermia.
Since last year, more than a million Middle Eastern migrants (mostly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis) fleeing war and uncertain futures have risked their lives crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on flimsy boats to reach Greece. More than 1,100 people drowned on the way. Nearly 60 percent of migrants landed on Lesbos, thrusting a quiet vacation island into newspaper headlines.