Bryan Sitch (right) is presented with a Refugee's life jacket by Marios Andriotis (left)
Bryan Sitch (right) is presented with a Refugee’s life jacket by Marios Andriotis (left)

A refugee’s life jacket was delivered to Manchester Museum from a Greek island on Monday.

Marios Andriotis, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, presented the life jacket to the museum’s deputy head of collections and curator of archaeology, Bryan Sitch, at the Town Hall of Mytilene, the capital of the island of Lesbos.

The trip occurred as the result of the museum’s Thematic Collecting project and will lead to a display centred on migration next year, with plans still in the development stage.

Mr Sitch said: “What better object than a refugee’s life jacket to illustrate this theme of migration and speaking about understanding between cultures?

“Immigration is one of the hot topics of our time and arguably it’s why many people voted no (in the EU referendum).”

According to the UN Refugee Agency 856,723 refugees arrived in Greece by sea in 2015, with over half of those being in Lesbos initially. The 2011 Census meanwhile revealed the population of Lesbos to be 86,436, around a fifth of the number of people the island was then required to welcome.

Sitch described realising the scale of the affect the influx of refugees had on the island, as the thing which impacted him most on his trip. He also said:

“We’re relatively sheltered from the massive impact the immigration refugees have had on the Greek Islands, and although we’ve taken some refugees it’s probably fair to say we haven’t really been affected by this to anything like the same extent.”

The people of Lesbos received worldwide recognition for their efforts to aid the refugees, including a petition for them to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UN’s World Tourism Organization, told ekathimerini: “The stories showing villagers hosting refugees, providing food and shelter to refugees are very good opportunities to attract tourists,”

Since the EU’s deal with Turkey the number of refugees arriving on the shores of Lesbos from there has decreased to a quarter of the size it was in 2015.

Sitch will be detailing more of his trip on Manchester Museum’s Thematic Collecting blog, including interviews with people on the island conducted to provide context for the upcoming exhibit.

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