As thousands of refugees continue risking their lives every day crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe, a British family on the Greek island of Lesbos is doing what it can to help the desperate arrivals.
Eric Kempson, 60, moved to the picturesque island with his wife and baby daughter 16 years ago after falling in love with it on holiday.
The couple left Hampshire with their baby daughter for a new life by the Aegean Sea, where Mr Kempson could sculpt olive wood from the local trees and paint the stunning landscape.
But for the last eight months there has been little time for his art, as he and his family work around the clock to help the hundreds of refugees arriving along the coast by their home every day.
The journey from Turkey across the Mytilini Strait is not a new one, but the number of desperate men, women and children arriving this year – 93,000 and rising- is unprecedented.
“We always get refugees here,” Mr Kempson said. “Last year we had about 5,000, but this year there’s well over 100,000.
“The numbers aren't going down, they’re going the other way. They’re still going up... every day we are saving people.”
The artist had seen people arriving every summer from his family home by the sea in Molyvos, where he and his wife run their art and gift business, but in February he decided he could no longer just watch.
Mr Kempson had been walking along the beach when he saw a baby’s life jacket lying next to a doll.
“I’m here and I’m a human being,” he said. “When you see these babies suffering you can’t just watch.”
He and his wife, Philippa, and their 16-year-old daughter, Elleni, decided to start helping the people arriving on the beach outside their home and they have been gradually joined in their efforts by local people, tourists and volunteers from around the world.
Mr Kempson now works with a network of about 60 volunteers, who use his family home as an unofficial base of operations and distribution centre for food, water, clothes and emergency supplies.
Every day, they keep watch along 10 miles of coastline around Molyvos, also known as Mithymna, and do what they can for the waves of people arriving on flimsy rubber dinghys.
On the day The Independent spoke to Mr Kempson, he had seen 25 boats arrive before lunchtime and received word of “another influx” down at the beach during the interview.
Most of the landings are jubilant occasions, with families hugging and crying with relief, as others sing or kiss the ground while offering up a prayer.
“When a boat comes in, the emotions are tremendous in both ways. People are very happy and there’s a lot of crying but if it has gone wrong, it can be terrible,” Mr Kempson said.
He has seen people arriving with serious injuries, women suffering miscarriages and children passed out from dehydration – not to mention the hundreds of loved ones lost on the journey, their bodies washing up hours or sometimes days later.
Sunday almost saw another disaster, when a boat sank before it reached the shore, throwing everyone on board into the water, including many who could not swim.
Elleni, who is a touring musician, swam out into the sea to rescue a toddler, carrying him to safety with her father by her side.
The harrowing scenes are a regular sight for locals but have a powerful effect on locals and the many journalists who have travelled to Lesbos to document the crisis.
“I've seen film crews here getting in the water to help,” Mr Kempson said. “I had a cameraman here from RTL who had been in warzones , in Syria and Iraq. He was on the beach crying his eyes out.
“I've seen crews having children in their cars to keep them warm.”
But surviving the voyage is just the first part in what will be a much longer journey for the majority of refugees trying to reach northern Europe.
People arriving on boat are classed as “undocumented illegals” by local authorities, meaning they are given no food or shelter and cannot even lawfully get a local hotel room or food from a restaurant until they are registered.
To do that, they must journey to the capital of Mytilini on foot for 40 miles. At the Moria First Reception Camp, stained mattresses and sheets of cardboard serve as beds and the gutters run with raw sewage.
Before starting that journey, most of the refugees, who are mainly fleeing Syria and Afghanistan, spend at least one night in Molyvos, exhausted by their voyage.
“There’s nowhere for these people to go,” Mr Kempson said. “We help them sleep on the ground but it’s all we can do.”
His family and volunteers feed and clothe the refugees, help them find shelter and drive anyone needing urgent medical attention to hospital or pharmacies.
But their efforts often get little thanks from their neighbours, who have spat at and abused the Kempsons, and even slashed the tyres of their car.
“We get a lot of hostility with people from the town because they blame us for giving the refugees food and water and looking after them,” Mr Kempson said, explaining that some locals believe the kindness encourages more people to come.
He acknowledged that the thousands of people landing in Lesbos have “affected” the island but knows that, like the 29,000 people taken to the Greek mainland in the past week, they will not stay for long.
“The refugees don’t want to be here and they are just going through,” he said.
According to the European border agency Frontex, the bulk of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece over the Aegean go on to take the long Western Balkans route to reach western Europe.
But with Hungary having closed its border with Serbia, and crackdowns by Croatia and Slovenia cutting off alternative routes, the onward journey is getting ever more difficult.
Mr Kempson, who has appeared in a documentary by Channel 4, said refugees he has talked to in recent days were aware of the developments but were not changing their plans.
“They definitely know,” he said. “They have all got internet so they know what’s going on.”
He does not believe that increasing border controls across the EU and meeting asylum seekers with lines of riot police and tear gas will stop people seeking a better life in the continent.
“It doesn't work like that,” Mr Kempson said. “They've got to think of a different way of solving the problem.”
Several international humanitarian organisations and charities have a presence on Lesbos but Mr Kempson is sceptical of their efforts, having seen few aid workers in Molyvos.
“We are finally getting a presence now but it’s very thin on the ground,” he said.
“NGOs come here, they photograph the women and children, and then they go and the next thing we see is the photos all over the internet advertising for donations…it’s wrong.”
Mr Kempson believes that the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi prompted a shift in public opinion on Lesbos and around the world that has driven more help to the Greek islands.
The refugee crisis - in pictures
The refugee crisis - in pictures
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A Syrian refugee holding a baby in a lifetube swims towards the shore after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos
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A refugee raises a child into the air as Syrian and Afghan refugees are seen on and around a dinghy that deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos
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Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos
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A refugee cries as he holds a child on the Serbian side of the border with Hungary in Asotthalom
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Refugees stand in front of a barrier at the border with Hungary near the village of Horgos, Serbia
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A refugee from Syria prays after arriving on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos aboard an inflatable dinghy across the Aegean Sea from from Turkey. Greece sent troops and police reinforcements to Lesbos after renewed clashes between police and migrants, the public broadcaster said, while Syrian refugees on the island were targeted with Molotov cocktail attacks
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Police try to stop refugees going under a fence to board a train at a station near Gevgelija, Macedonia. Several thousand refugees in Macedonia boarded trains to travel north after spending a night in a provisional camp. Macedonia has organised trains twice a day to the north border where they cross into Serbia to make their way to Hungary
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Refugees push each other as they try to board a bus following their arrival onboard the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ship at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece
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Refugees are welcomed by locals after their arrival at the main railway station in Frankfurt, Germany. Over 1,000 more refugees arrived in Germany to cheers and "welcome" signs, but calls grew for a European solution to its worst refugee crisis since World War II
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A young Syrian boy arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing in a dinghy with other refugees from Turkey
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Refugees walk on the railway tracks between Bicske and Szar, some 40 kms west of Budapest, trying to reach Germany
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Hungarian policemen stand by the family of refugees as they wanted to run away at the railway station in the town of Bicske, Hungary
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A family is arrested by local police after their local train coming from Budapest and heading to the Austrian border has been stopped in Bicske, west of the Hungarian capital
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A man is arrested by local police after his local train coming from Budapest and heading to the Austrian border has been stopped in Bicske, west of the Hungarian capital
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More than 2,500 refugees have died trying to reach Europe this year and the struggle continues as they travel through the continent
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Refugees protest in front of a train at Bicske railway station. Hundreds of people, were stranded on a train in Hungary for a second, demanding passage to Germany in a standoff with riot police
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Syrian refugees arrive on the shores of Lesvos island
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Syrian refugees on the Greek Macedonian border
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Refugees storm into a train at the Keleti train station as Hungarian police withdrew from the gates after two days of blocking their entry
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Refugees storm into a train at the Keleti train station in Budapest
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Refugees cross the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece, near the town of Gevgelija, Macedonia. The Gevgelija-Presevo journey is just a part of the journey that the refugees, the vast majority of them from Syria, are forced to make along the so-called Balkan corridor, which takes them from Turkey, across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary, the gateway to the European Union, September 2015
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A refugee helps up an exhausted fellow refugee as they cross the border between Macedonia and Greece, near the town of Gevgelija, September 2015
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People breaking through a police cordon and crossing the border between Macedonia and Greece, September 2015
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Refugees pass the border between Macedonia and Greece, September 2015
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A Macedonian policeman carries a child across the border between Macedonia and Greece, September 2015
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Syrians sleep on railroad tracks waiting to be processed across the Macedonian border in Idomeni, Greece, September 2015
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A Czech police officer marks a refugee with a number after more than than 200 refugees were detained, mostly from Syria, on trains from Hungary and Austria at the railway station in Breclav, Czech Republic, September 2015
AP Photo, CTK/Igor Zehl
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A baby is lifted on to the Norwegian vessel ‘Siem Pilot’ during a search-and-rescue mission off the Libyan coast, September 2015
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Budapest's main international railway station ordered an evacuation as hundreds of people tried to board trains to Austria and Germany, September 2015
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People wave their train tickets and lift up children outside the main Eastern Railway station in Budapest, September 2015
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People protest at the Eastern (Keleti) railway station of Budapest, September 2015
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Refugee children sleep in the surrounding green area of the Keleti railway station in Budapest, September 2015
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Syrians cross under a fence into Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, August 2015
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Refugees who have just crossed the border from Serbia into Hungary walk along a railway track that joins the two countries, August 2015
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Police arrest refugees at Cobham Services on the M25 in Surrey, August 2015
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Men hold a boy as they are stuck between Macedonian riot police officers and fellow refugees during a clash near the border train station of Idomeni, August 2015
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A Syrian father holds his children close as his arrives on the Greek Island of Kos, August 2015
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A tourist offers water to Iranian refugees as they arrive by paddling an engineless dinghy from the Turkish coast (seen in the background) at a beach on the Greek island of Kos, August 2015
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A Syrian holds his 30-day-old baby on an overcrowded train as they travel through Macedonia. Tens of thousands of refugees, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, use the Balkans route to get into the European Union, passing from Greece to Macedonia and Serbia and then to western Europe, August 2015
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A man rests on a platform at the train station in Gevgelija, on the Macedonian-Greek border, August 2015
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Refugees react after boarding the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship MV Phoenix some 20 miles (32 kilometres) off the coast of Libya. Some 118 refugees were rescued from a rubber dinghy off Libya. The Phoenix, manned by personnel from international non-governmental organisations Medecins san Frontiere (MSF) and MOAS, is the first privately funded vessel to operate in the Mediterranean, August 2015
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Authorities are being overwhelmed as they try to fight off hundreds of refugees, prompting France to beef up its police presence, July 2015
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People escape from the French Police as they try to catch a train to reach England, July 2015
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A man jumps over a fence as he attempts to access the Channel Tunnel, in Calais, northern France, July 2015
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Two men cling to the roof of a freight truck as it leaves the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone, July 2015
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A man climbs a security fence of a Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles near Calais, July 2015
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Men help a man squeeze through a gap in a fence near the Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles in Calais, July 2015
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Refugees climb in the back of a lorry on the A16 highway leading to the Eurotunnel in Calais, June 2015
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A police officer sprays tear gas to men trying to access the Channel Tunnel on the A16 highway in Calais, northern France, June 2015
PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
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Men jump out of a lorry after being discovered by French gendarmerie officers, June 2015
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A man sits under the trailer of a lorry, June 2015
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A Belgian navy sailor passes life vests to refugees sitting in a rubber boat as they approach the Belgian Navy Vessel Godetia, June 2015
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People on the Belgian Navy vessel Godetia after they were saved during a search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, June 2015
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Iraqis wait as they are detained by Hungarian police after crossing the Hungarian-Serbian border illegally near the village of Asotthalom, Hungary, June 2015
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Syrian refugees walking on train tracks through Macedonia on the Western Balkans migration route, after entering Europe through Greece, June 2015
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A group of people huddle together during an operation to remove them from the Italian-French border in the Italian city of Ventimiglia. Italy and France engaged in a war of words as a standoff over hundreds of Africans offered a graphic illustration of Europe's migration crisis. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano described images of refugees perched on rocks at the border town of Ventimiglia after being refused entry to France as a "punch in the face for Europe", June 2015
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A man is carried by Italian police in Ventimiglia, Italy. Police reportedly removed refugees from under a railway bridge, June 2015
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A Syrian child holds a drawing as he waits to disembark from Belgian Navy vessel Godetia at the Augusta port, Italy. Around 250 refugees from Syria arrived at the Sicilian harbour from a Damascus refugee camp, June 2015
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A dinghy overcrowded with Afghan refugees arrived on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, May 2015
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An Afghan child is helped off a rib on the Greek island of Kos, May 2015
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An Afghan girl holds the hand of a woman as they arrive on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, May 2015
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Refugees crossed part of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, May 2015
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Afghan refugees arrive on a beach of Kos, May 2015
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Rescuers help children to disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy in April 2015
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A boat transporting refugees arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at sea, April 2015
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Armed Forces of Malta personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead man off Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti as surviving refugees watch in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour, April 2015
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Rescued people talk to a member of the Malta Order after a fishing boat carrying refugees capsized off the Libyan coast, is brought ashore along with 23 others retreived by the Italian Coast Guard vessel Bruno Gregoretti at Boiler Wharf, Senglea in Malta, April 2015
After months of having to rely on basic first aid to help refugees, the volunteers are now being helped by doctors, and a midwife is expected to arrive within days.
Meanwhile, donations continue to pour in from across Europe and more volunteers are offering their time to help.
“The people of Europe have been fantastic and the people of the world have been fantastic,” Mr Kempson said. “We’re getting there but it’s hard work.”
As summer fades in Lesbos and the weather becomes more unpredictable, he fears for the lives of people still attempting to across the sea.
“We are losing people all the time and when the weather changes it’s going to get worse,” he said.
How to help the Kempsons
Volunteers on Lesbos are in desperate need of blankets as the weather cools.
Send them to Elleni's Workshop, Eftalou, 81108, Molyvos, Lesbos, Greece.
Anyone wanting to volunteer or donate money is asked to contact the Boat Refugee Foundation of the Netherlands (Stichting Bootvluchteling), which works closely with the Kempsons.
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