Image: Skala Sykamineas

In Focus

Traces of migrant crisis fade from Lesbos beaches three years later

In 2015, Lesbos was the main gateway to Europe for nearly a million refugees and migrants. Arrivals have slowed significantly since a European Union deal with Turkey in 2016, but a steady flow is putting pressure on island facilities. Photographer Aris Messinis revisited the landing sites.

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Image: Skala Sykamineas

Above, tourists walk on a beach near the village of Skala Sikaminias on the Greek island of Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, migrants arrive at the same place after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on Oct. 29, 2015.

At the height of the influx, some 5,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from war-torn Syria, were landing on the island's beaches on a daily basis. Hundreds never survived the journey across the Aegean Sea. More than 800 people, including many children, died in 2015 in the eastern Mediterranean. The situation quickly reached emergency proportions for beleaguered Lesbos as authorities tried to regulate the flow, register the exhausted survivors, and find shelter for them.

Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: Skala Sykamineas

Above, a woman sunbathes on a beach near the village of Skala Sikaminias on Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, a man walks amid life jackets along the shore as refugees and migrants arrive after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on Sept. 27, 2015.

Greece wants EU authorities to provide more funds and support staff to help it cope with thousands of migrants and refugees stuck in island camps, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on July 18, 2018.

Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: Skala Sykamineas

Above, a man stands on Kagia beach near the village of Skala Sikaminias, on Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, migrants arrive at the same place after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, on Dec. 8, 2015.

Five Greek islands, including Lesbos, are hosting some 18,000 migrants, nearly twice the capacity of state-run facilities, according to government data.

Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: Skala Sykamineas

Above, people play in the sea near the village of Skala Sikaminias on Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, migrants arrive at the same place after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Sept. 27, 2015.

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Image: Skala Sykamineas

Above, belongings of a bather on a beach near the village of Skala Sikaminias on Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, the body of a man lies on a beach on Lesbos, on Nov. 1, 2015, after boats carrying migrants and refugees trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey sank.

Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: Petra

Above, a man sunbathes on a beach in the village of Petra on Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, a resident pulls the body of a dead man who was found at the same place on Oct. 30, 2015.

Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images
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Image: Mytilene

Above, people sit on the beach in Mytilene on Lesbos on Aug. 3, 2018. Below, migrants arrive at the same place after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, on Feb. 23, 2016.

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Image: Molyvos

Above, wrecked boats and thousands of life jackets used by refugees and migrants during their journey across the Aegean Sea lay in a dump in Mithymna on Lesbos on Aug. 4, 2018. Below, the same picture taken on Feb. 19, 2016.

While the vast majority of migrants seeking to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East are now crossing further to the west, the eastern Mediterranean route remains in use.

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