Today, there are approximately 70 million refugees and displaces people around the world. Men, women, and children who have been forced to flee war zones, persecution, extreme poverty and environmental disasters. We are in the midst of the most serious refugee crisis in the history of the modern era. About 11 million of those refugees are Syrians who have lost their homes in the past eight years. Almost 4 million of them are children and teens who have not been in an educational system for years. Those children left the stability of their homes for a life of bare survival without a known future or a clear horizon.
Lesvos is the third largest island in Greece. The island's population consists of 82,000 Greek inhabitants, and today over 12,000 refugees are on the island. The island is eight kilometers from the shores of Turkey and because of that proximity it continues to be the first point of European entry for about 50% of the refugee population entering Greece.
At first the island served as a transit station for refugees. As of March 2016, and following the EU-Turkey Deal, it became the last path that refugees could use to reach Europe. Despite EU's statements that the refugee crisis had ended and the lack of coverage in the media, the crisis is still at its peak. Thousands of people are still crossing the sea each month to reach a safe haven. Unfortunately, the reality they meet in Lesvos and the whole of Greece is grim. The island operates two refugee camps, which can support around 4,500 refugees. In practice, over 12,000 refugees live in them today – far exceeding the maximum capacity.
The life routine in the refugee camp is empty. Under the power of international protection, refugees are entitled to a shelter but the guidelines on what "shelter" is are usually very basic. It allows life but under extremely poor and difficult conditions. While the refugee camps in Greece are assumed to provide somewhat reasonable arrangements, life in the camps is a constant struggle. It is spent in overcrowded tents or metal containers. There is a shortage of food and basic living necessities, a lack of hope, and distress of the unknown future filled with legal uncertainty and safety threats. Most of the children in the camps do not go to school. Refugees are forced to cope with the new reality they cannot navigate, in a language they don’t understand. In addition, there is a great deal of tension with the local population. The refugees' presence almost eliminated the tourism industry, the key provider for the local economy, and that only compounded the challenges presented by the ongoing Greek economic hardship.