Of more than 1 million refugees who fled war zones and braved the Mediterranean to reach European shores in 2015, more than 820,000 were received soaked and scared by the residents of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Despite the economic depression in the country, the people of Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Leros not only gave up their jobs to aid the asylum-seekers, but also risked official penalties by providing resources to the newly arrived refugees. The Greek islanders even opened up their homes to accommodate the fleeing Syrians, while taking care of the sick and injured.
Now, in a bid to acknowledge their life saving efforts, esteemed academics from Oxford, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and the University of Copenhagen are drafting a submission in favor of awarding Nobel Peace Prize to the islanders. The nomination deadline is Feb. 1.
Those behind the remarkable initiative have already met Greek Minister for Migration Yiannis Mouzalas, who has reportedly offered his government’s full support.
Moreover, an online petition by the grassroots campaign group Avaaz, urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to consider the nomination, had amassed more than 320,000 signatures as of this writing.
“Since the very beginning of the refugee crisis, fishermen, housewives, pensioners, teachers — all ordinary residents of the Greek islands and other volunteers have opened their homes and hearts to save refugee children, men and women fleeing war and terror,” the petition explained. “They've even risked their own lives to rescue thousands from the freezing sea waters. (...) Now we have a massive opportunity to help them shine their light even brighter, and show governments that people care and demand urgent action.”
In times like these, when the Greeks themselves were struggling with financial woes, their efforts to save humanity even before the EU officially opened its doors to the refugees are quite remarkable.
However, since only individuals or organizations can win the Nobel Peace Prize, it is extremely likely that either a leader or the islands’ “solidarity networks” — groups of volunteers who organized to help the refugees — would be rewarded the prestigious accolade.
This would also not be the first time a large group of people is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2015, coalition of four different political organizations, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, won the award for their work in rebuilding a constitutional democracy in their country. Similarly, the EU, United Nations, Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International have also received the esteemed humanitarian award in years past.