ECO Relief Lesvos, Greece

Lighthouse Relief was founded in response to the thousands of refugees arriving every day in rubber dinghies and aims to act as a beacon in harsh conditions, standing in support of those who need it most.

The number of refugee arrivals on Lesvos is now at its highest point since Greek borders closed in 2016. A direct byproduct of this humanitarian crisis is the huge amount of rubbish being left on the coastline: dinghies, life jackets and other waste strewn on the island’s beaches. This is detrimental both to the local environment and to the local economy. Given the high number of arrivals on the island, Lighthouse Relief is increasingly aware of the need to add to its humanitarian work with the refugees by stepping up its efforts to ensure that the beaches of Lesvos remain clean and protect the local environment, supporting the tourist industry and thus the struggling local population. The goal of this project is to use the summer months in 2018 to:
– work with teams of dedicated volunteers to clean the beaches
– run 100 beach cleans to clear around 37km of shoreline on the north shore of Lesvos
– mark, clear and repair about 100km of hiking  and biking trails to access remote beaches for the clean up which will also benefit the outdoor enthusiasts that come to the island
– take the collected waste to projects on the island to use it to raise awareness of and funds for the refugees

The Update

This project, undertaken over a short timescale between July and October 2018, has achieved fantastic results through what is a harrowing humanitarian crisis.

During these four months, approximately 19km of remote beaches and walking trails were cleared. Remote areas were targeted as they are not easily accessible for the municipality to clean. The project cleared:
– 46 dinghies;
– 877 life jackets;
– 743 bags of rubbish; and
– Countless large pieces of fibreglass/metal/plastic etc.

Volunteers carried out shift work clear ups, but were also ‘on call’ to respond within 30 minutes of a landing to carry out post-landing clean ups quickly and effectively, and thereby reduce the impact on local residents.

The project also carried out other activities to help within the local communities. Local clean ups were organised to help support local tourism and to preserve the natural beauty of the area. They also hosted a photography competition to raise awareness of plastic pollution, the project’s beach cleaning efforts, and the natural beauty of Lesvos.

All dinghy and life jackets collected were checked and, whenever possible, re-used by locals or ‘up-cycled’ to make other goods. Approximately 80% of dinghies and 60% of life jackets were able to be re-used. Many of the organisations undertaking up-cycling employ local people and refugees to make some amazing products, following these links to the products:
Mosaik Upcycling Workshop (Lesvos Solidarity)
Safe Passage Bags (Lesvos Solidarity)
Dirty Girls Lesvos
Bag Mohajer
The Welcome Project

Although the project with EOCA is now complete, Lighthouse Relief continues its vital work on the island of Lesvos, assisting with post-landing clean ups and supporting the local communities.

Image: Korakas Lighthouse before cleanup