Syria-born Greek mayor helps ‘lucky’ refugees

TO GO WITH AFP STORY  BY JOHN HADOULIS Children play with a pram in Myrsini on April 20, 2016, a few metres away from a summer resort sheltering nearly 350 Syrian refugees under the care of a Syria-born mayor, the first naturalised ex-migrant elected to office in Greece. The LM Village resort, partly owned by the local municipality of Kyllini, some 280 kilometres (170 miles) west of Athens, had previously been abandoned for years and extensively looted, a side-effect of the economic crisis gripping Greece since 2010.  Each of its small apartments now houses two families with children, the youngest of which was born in a nearby hospital a few days ago. / AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS


Myrsini / AFP

On a long beach framed by a golden Ionian Sea sunset, a group of Syrian boys shout for joy as they race across the sand, the horrors of war and exile they have witnessed briefly forgotten.
As the sun finally sets, children make a beeline for a nearby square and mothers with prams step out for an evening stroll.
The latest residents of a previously abandoned summer resort—extensively looted as a result of the Greek economic crisis—these Syrians consider themselves among the “lucky” ones.
“I spent two weeks in a tent, in the water at Idomeni,” said Wis Najjar, referring to the slum-like camp on the Greek-Macedonian border where about 10,000 people remain stranded since the closure of the migrant route through the Balkans in February.
“Here it’s very nice. The locals help us, even though they are in need themselves,” the 53-year-old technician from Aleppo added.
The LM Village resort, partly owned by the local municipality of Kyllini, some 280 kilometres west of Athens, is under the care of mayor Nampil Morant, a pathologist from Homs.
Morant, who has lived in the area for 25 years, is the first naturalised Greek of Syrian origin elected to office.
“It was the least I could do for Syrian refugees,” said Morant, 53, who was elected mayor in 2014 after serving three terms on the municipal council.
“Every day we saw the poor living conditions (in the makeshift camps), the rain, mud and the cold. I could not remain impartial, not when there is a facility that has been closed for the past six years and could offer temporary shelter,” he told AFP. For now, each of the resort’s small apartments houses two families with children, the youngest a baby girl born in the area’s general hospital a few days ago.

We were ‘lucky’
“They said, this is another camp and if you want to go, you can choose this camp. (We were) lucky,” says Tarek Al-Felo, a grizzled 42-year-old from Damascus, who was approached by Greek officials at the port of Piraeus last month after spending two weeks there.
Like many here, he has seen the squalor of makeshift camps at Piraeus and Idomeni.
“It’s better than other camps. And people here are good people. The mayor comes here every day and asks about people here,” said Felo, who used to run a restaurant in Damascus.

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