It was supposed to be the first step on their journey to Western Europe. But now thousands of migrants are mired in despair, anger and frustration on the scenic Greek island of Lesbos.
After perilous sea voyages from neighboring Turkey, they have been stranded here for days, some for nearly two weeks, running out of money and desperate to get to mainland Greece and continue their route.
The island of some 100,000 residents has been transformed by the sudden new population of some 20,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – and the strain is pushing everyone to the limit.
Fights break out among the migrants as they wait in long lines for hours in the summer heat and humidity, after days without showers. Families, sleeping on the streets, wander the seaside promenade of Mytilene, Lesbos’ capital, asking at the swanky cafes and restaurants to use their bathrooms or charge phones. The small police force, overwhelmed by the numbers, charges in at any sign of trouble, beating crowds with batons to break them up.