CAIRO – Greek islanders who have battled sea waves over the past year to save thousands of refugees escaping war in Syria are set to be nominated for Nobel peace prize by an International group of academics for their ‘empathy and self-sacrifice’.
“The people involved in the solidarity networks organized and helped the desperate when the governments weren’t even willing to recognize that the there was a crisis,” Spyro Limneos, an activist in Greece for Avaaz who distributed aid on the islands, told The Guardian.
“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.”
Residents of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea have been on the frontline of the refugee crisis last year.
Of the 900,000 refugees who entered Europe last year most were received, scared, soaked and travelling in rickety boats, by those who live in the islands.
The islanders, including fishermen who gave up their work to rescue people from the sea, are in line to be honored with one of the world’s most esteemed awards.
The idea of the nomination followed the publication of the image of Antonis Deligiorgis, a 34-year-old Greek army sergeant, last December which showed him rescuing an Eritrean refugee from the turbulent waters off Rhodes.
The photo was singled out as a striking illustration of the valor of those in the islands.
The nomination was suggested by eminent academics from the universities of Oxford, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and Copenhagen are drafting a submission in favor of awarding the prize to the people of Lesbos, Kos, Chíos, Samos, Rhodes and Leros.
Planning the nomination, academics met the Greek minister for migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, who they say has offered his government’s full support.
Moreover, they put a petition on the website of the grassroots campaign group, Avaaz, in favor of the nomination which has amassed 280,000 signatures.
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.”
One of the organisers of the Solidarity Networks, Matina Katsiveli, 61, a retired judge who lives on Leros, welcomed the move but said there was “reward enough in the smiles of the people we help”.