Q. What's your advice on visiting Kos this summer? We have booked two weeks at an all-inclusive resort on the island in August. Having read about the large influx of refugees, we were wondering if we should cancel and if we could get our money back.
A. This beautiful Greek island is, at its closest, only three miles from Turkey and has therefore inadvertently found itself a key waypoint for people seeking asylum in the European Union.
The business model for people-traffickers in this corner of the Mediterranean is to dispatch boats from the town of Bodrum to the island's main town, also called Kos. This is a distance of about 12 miles. For the asylum seekers it is a much less risky voyage than the well-publicised routes from Libya to Italy and Malta.
On Kos, Greek officials have a well-established processing system. Individual refugees' claims are assessed before permission is granted which enables the new arrivals to travel onwards, usually to Athens. Formalities can, however, take some weeks. Until they obtain their papers, the refugees are in bureaucratic limbo; some, including those with young children, are forced to sleep rough. Some press reports have highlighted the sharp contrast between holidaymakers enjoying the beach and stressed and desperate people struggling to find shelter and food.
However, one resident has contacted us to counter what she calls "ignorant and inflammatory reporting".
"We have wonderful places to visit, the people are the friendliest you could meet, and despite the poor state of the economy the Greeks are trying to help as much as they can."
Your all-inclusive resort is some distance from Kos town. You are unlikely to come into contact with the refugees unless you make an excursion to the island's capital.
The tour operator will be able to provide the holiday that you booked. Therefore, despite the unfolding humanitarian drama taking place on the island, normal conditions apply. If you choose to cancel at this stage, you would lose between 30 and 50 per cent of the cost of the holiday.
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