By Vania Turner and Bela Szandelszky
The tiny Greek island of Tilos may have a population of under 800. But, over the last year, it has become an example to the world after residents opened their hearts and businesses to 10 families from war-torn Syria.
“Since I moved to Tilos I have been calling it the land of dreams or ‘Dreamland’,” says Kusai Al-Damad, who fled Syria and now works in a bakery on the picturesque island. “It is a society where we all live together peacefully.”
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partner SolidarityNow, with European Commission funding support, have been providing accommodation and language classes to adults and children for almost a year. Many of the refugees – all of whom have been granted refugee status and have the right to work – say they want to stay, and for the islanders it has become an honour to host them.
“In order to integrate and have normal lives, [the refugees] need to work. And of course, it’s a great honour for us that these people want to stay here,” says Mayor Maria Kamma. “Is there anything more precious than human love?”