The Greek Islands: a destination still in crisis?
The Greek Islands conjure images in the mind of picture perfect towns, glorious beaches and impossibly blue seas. These images have altered dramatically in recent times due to wider worldwide events, events which threatened to decimate tourist numbers and change the very face of the Greek Islands. But why not pack your EHIC card and find out for yourself?
The Islands of Lesvos, Kos and Samos form a natural gateway from mainland Turkey and have acted as an entry point for migrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan seeking to pass through Greece. Just over a year on from the humanitarian crisis of this unprecedented movement of people, are these parts of Greece recovering? Are they still, in essence, the beautiful destinations of before?
Lesvos was arguably the island hit hardest by the influx of refugees. Being less than 10 km from the Turkish coast, it dealt with massive numbers of people arriving on its shores daily; however, it dealt with them in a way that speaks more about a nation than any travel brochure could, with generosity, compassion and understanding. A year on, the island is slowly returning to normal.
Another island close to Turkey which saw similar problems from spring 2015, peaking around August – September 2015. Similarly to Lesvos, the influx of people was met with help and, after initial problems, effective systems of aid enabled the authorities to support the migrants to move on to their intended destinations.
The common theme across all the Greek Islands was one of help, understanding and aid, and Samos was no different. This jewel of the Aegean was also inundated by people desperately seeking safety yet with help from local communities and international aid, did everything they could to help.
Amidst plunging bookings and cancelled cruise stops, the Greek people remained the same as always, friendly, helpful and welcoming, not just for tourists but for everyone. The Greek have a strong sense of pride for their country and the Greek Islands are as beautiful and welcoming as before.
Greece is still very much a place to visit in 2016; pack your passport and your EHIC card and give it a chance – you won’t be disappointed.