A Nobel Peace Prize has been recommended for the residents of Greek islands for their efforts and cooperation in rescuing, feeding and sheltering hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants.
An online petition has been started asking for the efforts of these “unsung heroes” on islands in the Aegean Sea to be recognized with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is addressed to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and Greece’s Immigration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas.
The petition is posted on the website of Avaaz, a grassroots organisation. Noted academics from the universities of Oxford, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and Copenhagen are drafting a submission in favour of awarding the prize to the people of Lesbos, Kos, Chíos, Samos, Rhodes and Leros.
Islanders, including fishermen who gave up their work to rescue people from the sea, received more than 900,000 refugees who entered Europe last year scared, soaked and travelling in rickety boats.
The petition reads,
“Ordinary residents of Greek islands and other volunteers have been on the front lines of Europe’s refugee crisis for months, opening up their hearts and homes to save hundreds of thousands fleeing war and terror.
“For their compassion and courage, for treating those in danger with humanity, and for setting an example for the rest of the world to follow, we citizens around the world, nominate these brave women and men for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The deadline for nominations is February 1. The petitioners have urged supporters to spread the petition, hoping to secure one million signatures before the deadline. It has already been signed by more than 300,000 people.
In December, the image of Antonis Deligiorgis, a 34-year-old Greek army sergeant, rescuing an Eritrean refugee from the turbulent waters off Rhodes, was singled out as a striking illustration of the valour of those in the islands. Deligiorgis was awarded the Cross of Excellency by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos for his role in rescuing passengers from a ship carrying migrants from Turkey that sank after crashing into rocks a week ago.
According to the petition,
“On remote Greek islands, grandmothers have sung terrified little babies to sleep, while teachers, pensioners and students have spent months offering food, shelter, clothing and comfort to refugees who have risked their lives to flee war and terror.”
It is understood the academics will urge the Nobel committee members to accept their nomination though the official nomination letter is yet to be finalised. The identities of the academics will be revealed in the coming days.
Guardian reported that they will say that it must be noted that a people of a country already dealing with its own economic crisis responded to the unfolding tragedy of the refugee crisis with “empathy and self-sacrifice”, opening their homes to the dispossessed, risking their lives to save others and taking care of the sick and injured.
It is likely that the “solidarity networks” on the islands, groups of volunteers who organised to help the refugees or individuals within groups will be the official nominees as only individuals or organisations are eligible to win the prize.
The Independent reported that the networks have helped refugees by giving them dry clothes, food, hygiene packs and accommodation and have also advised on the possible next steps for migrants.
More than 1 million migrants entered Europe in “irregular arrivals” last year, most fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, according to theInternational Organization for Migration.
Spyro Limneos, an activist in Greece for Avaaz who distributed aid on the islands, said,
“The people involved in the solidarity networks organised and helped the desperate when the governments weren’t even willing to recognise that the there was a crisis. By opening their hearts the islanders sent a powerful message that humanity is above races, above nations. I will never forget seeing young girls being rescued from a boat on Leros. They were smiling. They didn’t have suitcases or any possessions except their end-of-year school certificates written in Arabic. They laid those down in the sun to dry out. It was a combination of tragedy and hope.”
A message from the petitioners on the page said Mouzalas had indicated that Greece’s government would consider backing the petition for the Nobel Peace Prize.
[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]