In December, we published an appeal calling for the volunteers of Lesbos to be recognized as People of the Year. Now, the Guardian reports that the Greek islanders who have been on the frontline of the refugee crisis are to be nominated for the Nobel peace prize.
Academics from Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Oxford and elsewhere are now leading an effort to nominate the volunteers from the islands of Lesbos, Kos, Chíos, Samos, Rhodes and Leros — many of whom gave up their jobs to rescue incoming refugees from the sea — who responded to the unfolding tragedy of the refugee crisis with “empathy and self-sacrifice”, opening their homes to the dispossessed, risking their lives to save others and taking care of the sick and injured.
The nomination deadline is 1 February, but those behind the plan have already met the Greek minister for migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, who they say has offered his government’s full support.
In the meantime, a petition on the website of the grassroots campaign group, Avaaz, in favour of the nomination has amassed nearly 350,000 signatures. According to the petition: “On remote Greek islands, grandmothers have sung terrified little babies to sleep, while teachers, pensioners and students have spent months offering food, shelter, clothing and comfort to refugees who have risked their lives to flee war and terror.”
Only individuals or organisations are eligible to win the prize so it is likely that the “solidarity networks” on the islands – groups of volunteers who organised to help the refugees – or individuals within groups will be the official nominees.
The volunteer networks on the Greek islands have provided accommodation, hygiene packs, food, dry clothes and help with the next steps for refugees. The academics supporting their nomination say that the selfless response from the majority of islanders helped to set the tone across Europe towards the refugees’ plight — adding that they did so when their own country was already dealing with its own severe economic crisis.
Spyro Limneos, an activist in Greece for Avaaz who distributed aid on the islands, said: “The people involved in the solidarity networks organised and helped the desperate when the governments weren’t even willing to recognise that the there was a crisis.
“By opening their hearts the islanders sent a powerful message that humanity is above races, above nations.
“I will never forget seeing young girls being rescued from a boat on Leros. They were smiling. They didn’t have suitcases or any possessions except their end-of-year school certificates written in Arabic. They laid those down in the sun to dry out. It was a combination of tragedy and hope.”
One of the organisers of the Solidarity Networks, Matina Katsiveli, 61, a retired judge who lives on Leros, welcomed the move but said there was “reward enough in the smiles of the people we help”.
An international group of academics is working to nominate the Greek islanders on the frontline of the refugee crisis, and be recognized for their ‘empathy and self-sacrifice.’ Read more at: theguardian.com