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The Migrants Next Door

On the Greek island of Lesbos, a makeshift migrant camp has formed among olive trees. As much of Europe tightens borders against the seemingly endless flood of entrants, many inside the camp are now living in limbo, unable to continue their journey onward but determined not to return home.

A few hundred meters from the camp, locals in the picture-postcard village of Moria have been remarkably openhearted to the migrants. But there is fear that as the boats keep coming, and the doors to Western Europe swing shut, their once peaceful olive grove may turn into the next Calais-style "Jungle." (Photos and text by RFE/RL's Amos Chapple)

For these three Iranians, moving on from the camp is already nearly impossible. But Alireza Hosseini (standing at top) says they will wait until the day the borders open to migrants from Iran. "Maybe one year, maybe two. We will never go back to Iran." 
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For these three Iranians, moving on from the camp is already nearly impossible. But Alireza Hosseini (standing at top) says they will wait until the day the borders open to migrants from Iran. "Maybe one year, maybe two. We will never go back to Iran." 

Migrants in the camp are fed three times a day by a large contingent of volunteers. With its hippy color scheme and messages of peace and love, the camp reflects the music-festival background of its organizers.
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Migrants in the camp are fed three times a day by a large contingent of volunteers. With its hippy color scheme and messages of peace and love, the camp reflects the music-festival background of its organizers.

In addition to phone-charging stations and a compost-powered water heater, there’s a wood-fired oven in the camp. The volunteers use it for pizzas, while the migrants make Middle Eastern flatbread.
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In addition to phone-charging stations and a compost-powered water heater, there’s a wood-fired oven in the camp. The volunteers use it for pizzas, while the migrants make Middle Eastern flatbread.

The farmers of Moria have taken to erecting fences for their flocks, whereas in the past many sheep and goats were free to wander. Several locals reportedly had their animals stolen and eaten by migrants.
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The farmers of Moria have taken to erecting fences for their flocks, whereas in the past many sheep and goats were free to wander. Several locals reportedly had their animals stolen and eaten by migrants.

Dusk on the edge of the camp, where migrants charge their cellphones and use the free Wi-Fi. In the background, the lights of Moria village twinkling to life mean locals will be gathering in the tavernas for seafood and a drink and, as always, some heavy discussion.
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Dusk on the edge of the camp, where migrants charge their cellphones and use the free Wi-Fi. In the background, the lights of Moria village twinkling to life mean locals will be gathering in the tavernas for seafood and a drink and, as always, some heavy discussion.

In the Giota Kafeneion, a taverna in the center of Moria, the regulars are used to migrants wandering through their village. Despite many locals sharing stories of chickens and sheep being stolen, there is little anger.
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In the Giota Kafeneion, a taverna in the center of Moria, the regulars are used to migrants wandering through their village. Despite many locals sharing stories of chickens and sheep being stolen, there is little anger.

Retired builder Giorgos Kolaras peels a turnip at the doorway to the taverna.
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Retired builder Giorgos Kolaras peels a turnip at the doorway to the taverna.

Pakistani hawker Amjad Ali tries to interest the taverna crowd in a flashlight that he eventually sold, along with three knives from his basket of goods.
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Pakistani hawker Amjad Ali tries to interest the taverna crowd in a flashlight that he eventually sold, along with three knives from his basket of goods.

After Ali left, Kolaras twirled prayer beads as he spoke to RFE/RL about what the migrant camp might mean for his village. "It would be unfortunate to have more people like [Ali]. We are not a strong economy like Germany -- we don’t have jobs for ourselves."
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After Ali left, Kolaras twirled prayer beads as he spoke to RFE/RL about what the migrant camp might mean for his village. "It would be unfortunate to have more people like [Ali]. We are not a strong economy like Germany -- we don’t have jobs for ourselves."

The discussion gained intensity as the beer flowed. Litsa Chroni runs the taverna and is fearful for the future of her town if the migrants remain stranded in Moria's olive groves. "It will be the law of the jungle; we will be forced out," she said, before adding, "Just let them leave one church. At least this."
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The discussion gained intensity as the beer flowed. Litsa Chroni runs the taverna and is fearful for the future of her town if the migrants remain stranded in Moria's olive groves. "It will be the law of the jungle; we will be forced out," she said, before adding, "Just let them leave one church. At least this."

Michaelis Bupakash, on his way home from the taverna after coffee and a smoke. For the 59-year-old handyman, today's migrants are a reminder of his own ancestors, who fled to Greece from  Anatolia. He says he has no bitterness toward the Afghan migrants who stripped his garden of vegetables, adding, "They did it because they were hungry."
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Michaelis Bupakash, on his way home from the taverna after coffee and a smoke. For the 59-year-old handyman, today's migrants are a reminder of his own ancestors, who fled to Greece from  Anatolia. He says he has no bitterness toward the Afghan migrants who stripped his garden of vegetables, adding, "They did it because they were hungry."

Back at the camp, the atmosphere is less convivial. These olive trees have lived through much in their hundred-odd years, but as stranded migrants like this Afghan man collect in the camp, no one can tell when this patch of land will return to peaceful obscurity as an olive grove where the sheep occasionally come to graze.
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Back at the camp, the atmosphere is less convivial. These olive trees have lived through much in their hundred-odd years, but as stranded migrants like this Afghan man collect in the camp, no one can tell when this patch of land will return to peaceful obscurity as an olive grove where the sheep occasionally come to graze.

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