Criticized by local authorities on the islands and international agencies monitoring the refugee crisis, the Greek government has stepped up its efforts to assist with transporting thousands of refugees— primarily Syrians, from Greece’s frontier islands.
An estimated 160,000 refugees have landed on Greek territory this year alone. They are fleeing violence and a brutal war civi war and most of them are making their way to Turkey where smugglers are selling spots on dinghies from the Turkish coast to Greece’s border islands.
Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Leros and Kalymnos have seen the brunt of the refugee influx as these are the islands closest to the Turkish coast.
As the population of refugees on the islands increases, local authorities are being worn thin as they try to help the arriving refugees. Water, clean clothes and food are running short with efforts by private citizens, non-profit solidarity groups and church organizations making up for the lack of a government involvement.
But in an effort to help alleviate the problem, the Greek government chartered a private ferryboat operated by ANEK Lines, the Eleftherios Venizelos.
The ship, a car ferry that can hold up to 2,500 people, serves as an accommodation and identification center for Syrian refugees and a ferry to transfer them from their points of entry on the Greek islands to the port of Piraeus in Athens.
The Eleftherios Venizelos made its first journey in its new capacity on Aug. 19, departing from the island of Kos with 1,700 passengers. It stopped at the islands of Kalymnos and Leros where it picked up almost 1,000 more. Since then, the ship has made the journey nearly every day filled to capacity.