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Residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have been helping refugees who arrive by boat

CNN spoke to several islanders to find out why they do it

CNN  — 

For the thousands of migrants who make the treacherous sea crossing to Greece, Lesbos is often the first stop.

Many of those who arrive by boat are risking everything to escape violence and persecution.

The crossing to Greece remains popular – and deadly. Last week, another 24 migrants, including 10 children, died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean.

For the residents of Lesbos, the flow of people is unrelenting. Many have donated time and effort – from small acts of kindness, like giving sandwiches to exhausted, hungry travelers, to rescue operations for those stranded offshore.

And their tireless, selfless efforts have not gone unnoticed. February 1 marks the deadline for nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, and a petition to recognize the efforts of the Greek islanders with a nomination has garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.

But for those on the island, it is not a question of glory, or even recognition, but one of basic humanity. As one told CNN, “We are monsters if we don’t do this – why should we be given a prize for being human beings?”

Aimilia Kamvisi


Aimilia Kamvisi is 83 years old. Her house is a stone’s throw away from one of the busiest landing points on Lesbos.

When the refugees started coming, she did what she could to help them. On the beach, she would welcome migrants and help feed their babies and children. Now seeing the reaction from European countries, she’s upset.

“I watch TV, I know,” she says. “Don’t they have human feelings? Don’t they have hearts?”

Thomas Zourzouvilis


Thomas Zourzouvilis is a fisherman. In the waters of Lesbos, he never knows what the day will bring.