Greek island Tilos, pro-refugees, pro-ecology

This video says about itself:

The BBC Travel Show – Tilos

30 September 2017

In this segment I travel to the island of Tilos in Greece. The island is becoming the first in Greece to generate sustainable energy using the power of the sun and wind.

In June 2008, Anastassios Aliferis, the Socialist mayor of the island, performed the first same-sex marriages in Greece, citing a legal loophole and defying claims of illegality by a Greek prosecutor.

Translated from Conny Keesen, Dutch NOS TV correspondent in Greece, 6 August 2018:

Tilos: the first sustainable island in the Mediterranean

Solar panels, a windmill and a plant that converts and bundles all generated energy: Greek Tilos is ready for it. Ready to become the first island in the Mediterranean that largely runs on sun and wind.

The remote island, located between Kos and Rhodes, has always been a pioneer in nature conservation. Rare birds live in the rugged mountains, special plants grow and underground rivers flow. Now Tilos goes a step further.

“Countries that do not have as much sun and wind as we can do it anyway?”, Mayor Maria Kamma wonders. “We have been working on clean energy here for a long time, and on this island we are growing up with awareness for nature and the environment.” …

Nature reserve

In 2012 Kamma was chosen as mayor. She followed in the footsteps of Tassos Aliferis, a convinced environmentalist. For example, he already imposed a hunting ban on the island in 1993; then still unique in Greece.

He made sure that the island became officially a nature reserve. By promoting ecotourism, he managed to attract hikers and conservationists to the island. Tilos now receives about 13,000 tourists a year and together they form the main source of income for the approximately 500 residents. …

The project is also embraced by the people of Tilos. Because it is not only better for the environment, the inhabitants also benefit from it. Until now, the island was dependent on a submarine cable from Kos island for energy, and that often led to power cuts. …

“But every island can become a Tilos”, says engineer Spyros. “We are a model for other islands, not only in Greece, but for the whole of Europe.”

In the meantime, Tilos is already working on new, green plans. “Street lighting by solar energy, and electric bicycles and motorcycles for the municipal staff”, suggests mayor Maria Kamma. “Or charging stations for electric cars, just to name a few.” …

According to the WWF, Greece costs 800 million euros per year to transport imported diesel to the islands.

This 13 July 2017 video says about itself:

The Greek island where Syrian refugees are welcome – BBC News

The 800-strong community on the small Greek island Tilos have made 50 refugees feel at home. New arrivals are being given accommodation and residency, as long as they work and integrate.

Translated from Conny Keesen, Dutch NOS TV correspondent in Greece, 9 August 2018:

Tilos, the Greek island that wants asylum seekers

Like other Greek islands, the small island Tilos, located between Kos and Rhodes, has seen thousands of refugees arriving in 2015. The local population was ready to help the beached asylum seekers, almost without outside help.

In 2016 the local council unanimously decided that they wanted to do more. The residents built a small reception center themselves. A non-governmental organization, Solidarity Now, came to help with an education and integration program. The official request was made to the government to send families with children. And they came.

Shadow and beach

The relief center on Tilos is located behind a small Greek Orthodox church, on the outskirts of the village. Ten container homes with beautiful wooden roofs that provide shade. There is a separate building where Syrian families can cook and eat. The area is green, and the beach is less than 500 meters away.

In a neighboring building, Solidarity Now has set up an office and a classroom. Four small children get lessons from an English volunteer. Through a game with dice he tries to teach them English words and numbers.

Four families with a total of nineteen people now live in the center, mainly parents with children. They have been transferred from other islands and are waiting for their asylum, or have already received it.

Anastasia and her translator Roula, photo Conny Keessen / NOS

Anastasia Giannakopoulou, sociologist and social worker for Solidarity Now, has been living on Tilos for two years. She was involved in the project from the start. “There have been a lot of improvements over the course of time, and there are many more activities, there are Greek and sometimes English lessons for children and adults, now it is a holiday, but the children are going to school here. We try to help the adults get work.”

Syrians help everywhere

That effort to integrate the Syrians into the small community of about 550 people is what makes the project special, says Giannakopoulou. “That’s why we’re also concentrating on learning Greek, with a view to the future, and local people are willing to help them, particularly in summer, and since last year we have Syrians working in hotels and at the baker’s.”

Syrian Ali in the bakery, photo Conny Keessen / NOS

Ali is busy putting the prepared dough into the oven this morning. The 33-year-old Syrian had his own restaurant in his homeland and was also a chef there. With his wife Nona (27) and three small children, he has by now been living on Tilos for about eight months.

He works from midnight to early morning and is happy with his work. “It is better to work than to do nothing”, he says. “You forget the stress and the tension, I receive a salary and we are insured.”

Yet he does not know yet whether he will stay with his family on Tilos or in Greece. That decision is difficult and not yet taken, he and his wife Nona say. “The most important thing now is that my husband has work, and the children can go to school, and the eldest, Kinana, speaks Greek quite well.”

Syrian Nona and her three children, photo Conny Keessen / NOS

Baker Michalis Panidis was actively involved in helping refugees from the very beginning. In 2015 he rescued hundreds of migrants from their boats. For him it is obvious to employ someone like Ali.

“It’s good for me, and for him too, it’s nothing special, I think we should do it everywhere.” Panidis believes that if the newcomers get opportunities, then they will also want to stay on Tilos.

Baker Michalis Panidis, photo Conny Keessen / NOS

Reality is unmanageable, however, Tilos’ mayor Maria Kamma, the driving force behind the project, also acknowledges. The vast majority of families who came first two years ago have left.

“They get asylum, their passports, and leave, they have the dream of Europe”, she says somewhat disappointedly.

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