Nobel Buzz Builds for Greek Islanders
They have been on the frontlines of the refugee crisis
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2016 6:03 AM CST
Greek lifeguards help refugees and migrants to disembark from a small boat after their arrival at the Greek island of Lesbos.   (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

(Newser) – Some 1 million refugees flooded into Europe last year—fleeing war, oppression, and poverty in the Middle East and Africa—and more than 80% of them came through Greece, CNN reports, a situation that has thrust residents of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea onto the frontlines of the refugee crisis. Now, residents of Lesbos, Kos, Chíos, Samos, Rhodes, and Leros are to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to rescue, feed, and shelter the migrants who have arrived, often "scared, soaked, and traveling in rickety boats," at their shores, the Guardian reports. Some 3,700 have drowned in the attempt.

Per the Guardian, a group of academics from Copenhagen, Cornell, Harvard, Oxford, and Princeton is drafting a submission letter that will note that the islanders responded to the refugees with "empathy and self-sacrifice," despite being in the throes of their own economic crisis. An online petition in favor of the nomination has received hundreds of thousands of signatures. And the people behind the effort tell the Guardian that the Greek government has pledged its support. Nominations are due Feb. 1. Volunteer groups called "solidarity networks" that were organized to help refugees would likely be the official nominees, the Guardian notes, because only individuals and organizations are eligible for the award, which comes with a gold medal and monetary prize (about $1 million last year). One organizer of the solidarity networks from Leros tells the Guardian that there is "reward enough in the smiles of the people we help."