The Ghosts of Refugees Past

December 23, 2015                                                                       FOREIGN POLICY

SYKAMINIA, Greece — In a scene repeated nearly every day in this small fishing village on the Greek island of Lesbos, a Coast Guard boat had recently pulled into port and unloaded a group of wet and frightened refugees who had just been rescued from the sea. It was 10 p.m., a cold wind was blowing, and the newcomers were shivering. But it wasn’t long before one of the cafés neighboring the port opened its doors so the group could take shelter. Not long after that, several women arrived to quietly distribute dry clothes to the children.

As the refugees made the long uphill walk to a reception center for migrants, they passed an olive press that’s over a century old. Exhausted as they were, it’s unlikely the refugees inquired about the building’s history. But if they had, the locals would have explained that the olive press once housed desperate refugees, much like the present-day newcomers from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The only difference is that the earlier migrants were Greeks — the ancestors of most of the very people assisting today’s refugees.



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