Chios: A Greek Gateway for Migrants entering Europe

Refugee Camp in Agia Ermioni, Chios

On most days one can clearly see Turkey from the eastern coast of the Greek island of Chios. With a population of just over 50,000 this small island used to be known best for its idyllic beaches and its production of the rare mastic resin used in Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Since May 2015, however, the island may be better known as a primary entry point for migration into the European Union. On some days the island experiences over 1,000 migrant landings, making it second only to its northern neighbor in the Aegean, Lesbos.

Some days we have had to register only 100 but often there are over 1,000 migrants in a single day. Once they are registered, local volunteers and groups help cover their needs until they are able to leave.
— Municipal Worker/Volunteer, Greek, Male, 43

While Lesbos has become a hub for international humanitarian organizations after this summer’s dramatic increase in migration, Chios’ humanitarian reaction has remained primarily homegrown.

In December 2015 the EU border agency Frontex announced that it would send 94 border officers to Chios in anticipation of record levels of migration this year. This will free up volunteers to focus on humanitarian needs of arriving refugees, as they gear up to face an estimated threefold increase in daily arrivals as weather conditions improve for the spring.