Refugees in Lesbos Owen Humphreys/Getty Images

Lesbos’s Ghosts, Europe’s Disgrace

The influx of refugees into Greece continues, with another 2,238 arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos in September alone. But the refugees’ misery doesn't end on arrival, where they face inhuman conditions – and an even worse fate if they are returned home.

ATHENS – In 2015, hundreds of thousands of refugees landed on Greece’s island shores. Many had perished at sea. Today, the international public has been lulled into believing that Greece’s refugee crisis has abated. In fact, it has become a permanent scourge blighting Europe’s soul and brewing future trouble. The island of Lesbos was, and remains, its epicenter.

The story of Shabbir demonstrates how starkly reality clashes with Europe’s official storyline. Shabbir, 40, lived with his wife and two young children in a midsize town in Pakistan, where he ran a car rental business. One night in December 2015, a local group of Islamist extremists petrol-bombed Shabbir’s neighbor’s home and waited outside for the fleeing family.

Shabbir’s neighbors were Christian, and the extremists were keen to evict them and convert their home into a madrasa (religious school). Instinctively, Shabbir rushed to his Christian neighbors’ defense. Designated an “apostate,” his business was burned down, his brother was brutally murdered, his wife and children fled to neighboring villages, and Shabbir, together with his elderly father, took the long, cruel road, via Iran and Turkey, to imagined safety in civilized Europe.

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