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Kos island paradise not a 'hellhole'

- by Andy Cornish

The Greek Island of Kos has hit back at 'ridiculous' claims in the British Daily Mail newspaper that an influx of refugees has turned the holiday island into a 'disgusting hellhole'

UK holiday visitors to Kos are bemused at the 'hellhole' tag as few come across any refugees as they sunbathe on the island's beaches.

Locals on Kos have also attacked the article's 'racist and provocative' style that they blame for discrediting the popular holiday island as a tourist destination.

An article for Kosinfo says: "Kos is a tourist destination that offers many promises to every visitor. It does not deserve such defamation."

'It is shameful and a blow for the international image of Kos and Greece to host such made up stories. Kosinfo "complains" and opposes to any vulgar and intolerant propaganda against the island.'

The online holiday hotel booking site Trivago has reported a 50% drop in searches for Kos hotels since the article appeared and Kos hotel owners are concerned that the Daily Mail story could affect bookings at the start of the holiday season.

A group has created a Facebook page directed against newspaper article that has already won considerable support from English visitors by notching up 3,240 likes in less than 24 hours.

A site representative said it had clocked up 6,455 likes in seven days: "I won't lie about it, the response to this page was enormous! The amount of emails and pictures and videos was massive."

There is no question that Kos, like many other Greek islands, is suffering a refugee problem. The numbers fleeing violence in Syria and Libya by sailing from Turkey to Greece has been rising for a number of years.

It is thought that more than 1,500 refugees arrived on Kos in a 10-day period recently, joining 6,000 others who have crossed to the picturesque holiday island by boat in the last two months.

Most are housed in an abandoned hotel complex before being shipped to other parts of Europe in countries that, unlike the UK, are offering the war-ravaged refugees a safe haven.

The Kos police and local authorities are struggling to cope with processing the refugees who face a wait of 10 and 15 days before being granted permits to leave.

Refugees with money can rent apartments while they wait to be processed, but those without means must stay in and the abandoned hotel which has been transformed into a refugee camp.

Despite the problem most tourists on Kos are highly unlikely to come across any of the refugees unless they pay a visit to the police station or go to the harbour park at 7 am where any refugees are gathered for the early morning walk to the abandoned hotel.

The refugees anyway are almost all harmless, shy, polite and very grateful to have escaped with their lives. There have been no reports of hostile, anti-social or unlawful behaviour by any refugees on Kos.

This hasn't stopped the Daily Mail whipping up lurid tales that have triggered an outbreak of disgust even among the paper's own readers.

Comments on the article include: "How sad for those British tourists – my heart bleeds for them – complaining because the refugees are 'ruining' their holiday.' and 'DM, you need to rewrite the whole article with a different perspective. This is embarrassing."

It is not just Kos that is experiencing problems with refugees fleeing violence in the near East and in north Africa. Islands like Lesvos, Chios and Samos have reported similar problems.

Meanwhile, the Greek Islands have seen a surge in holiday visitor numbers this year with airports reporting a 45% rise on last year, according to latest figures.

More than 1.7 million visitors have opted for a holiday in Greece in the first three months year against 1.1 million in the first quarter of 2014 with the numbers from the UK booking holidays in Greece up by 37% thanks to good exchange rates against the euro and low prices across Greece.