Migrants fill derelict Greek hotel

Migrants (above) on the balconies of the abandoned Captain Elias hotel on the Greek island of Kos; an Afghan child on the grounds of the hotel.
Migrants (above) on the balconies of the abandoned Captain Elias hotel on the Greek island of Kos; an Afghan child on the grounds of the hotel.PHOTO: REUTERS
Migrants on the balconies of the abandoned Captain Elias hotel on the Greek island of Kos; an Afghan child (above) on the grounds of the hotel.
Migrants on the balconies of the abandoned Captain Elias hotel on the Greek island of Kos; an Afghan child (above) on the grounds of the hotel.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KOS (Greece) • The carcass of an abandoned hotel on the Greek island of Kos has become a grim shelter for migrants fleeing war and poverty as Europe faces its worst refugee crisis in decades.

Dozens sit around the empty swimming pool, others lie on mattresses cramming the reception area of the Captain Elias hotel, while tents and huts cobbled together from cardboard and branches fill the garden. The fields beyond serve as toilets, fences as washing lines.

"No one has come to give us food in four days. And even when someone comes, it's never enough," said Ersha, an Afghan, on Sunday. The 25-year-old engineer has run out of money after paying smugglers US$5,000 (S$7,000) to reach Kos.

The island has come to symbolise Europe's shambolic response to the refugee crisis, which European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos describes as the worst since World War II.

Hundreds of Syrians on Sunday began boarding a passenger ship that is to house and process them, in a bid to ease conditions onshore. As they are fleeing Syria's civil war, they have priority as refugees.

The day before, about 50 migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran fought each other outside the island's main police station. They have little chance of getting aboard the government-chartered ship because they have not established themselves as refugees. Last week, there was chaos when overwhelmed police beat migrants with truncheons and sprayed them with fire extinguishers at a sports stadium, where 2,000 refugees had been gathered for processing.

"I have been here 17 days. I want to go to Athens, and then to Germany or Sweden," said Ersha, who travelled from Afghanistan to Greece via Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to flee "kidnapping and bombings".

The hotel is not an official shelter and offers its inhabitants practically nothing. A handful of locals and tourists are helping out. Behna, from Iran, said: "The situation here is very bad. In the night there is no electricity. It is very sad."

Athens and the Kos authorities blame each other - and the EU - for the shortfall.

Meanwhile, survivors of the latest Mediterranean migrant-boat tragedy arrived in Sicily yesterday aboard a Norwegian ship also carrying 49 bodies.

A total of 313 people who survived last Saturday's sinking of an overcrowded fishing boat arrived on the Siem Pilot, which also carried 103 migrants rescued by a German ship. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Migrants fill derelict Greek hotel'. Print Edition | Subscribe