Contested Borderscapes of Mytilene Port

The port of Mytilene was an open (not fenced) boarding and disembarking area despite being located on the country’s borders. Until 1870, boarding and disembarking was done by boats coming along the waterfront. All public events, rallies, demonstrations and celebrations took place there. In 1832 the salvation of the city from the plague was celebrated and on November 9, 1912 the union of Lesvos with Greece.

In July 1922 the then government (during the reign of Constantine) with Law 2870-20 / 7/1922, in front of the imminen loss of the Greek-Turkish war, had decided to prevent the “illegal” exit of the inhabitants of Asia Minor to Greece. In September 1922, after the destruction of Smyrna, many women and children from Asia Minor came on the Egyptian ship Kedivie without the necessary papers. In the literary work of Asimakis Panselinos (2001: 124) there is talk of two Smyrnaeans who did not have papers and quarreled with the representative of the port who had come from Athens to implement the Law prohibiting their entry to the island. Then the narrator says, some people from Mytilene were thrown out of the cafes, they grabbed the port officer, stopped him and helped the women to get out. The women were then brought to the cafe and got treated, while in the meantime the people from Mytilene forced the port official in a boat and sent him back to Piraeus to get better instructions. “And again the ships began to arrive with refugees without a passport.” In the next years they followed their settlement in Greece and the population exchanges that caused many conflicts and racist outbursts in the country (Kordatos, 1958).

During World War II and the EAM struggles, the port became famous again for its anti-fascist battles. On December 24, 1944, British troops attempted to disembark a British colonial army in Lesvos with the aim of suppressing the EAM, as had been done in Piraeus. Following a call from EAM, the residents of Lesvos went down to the port, they built roadblocks (blocks) and did not allow the army to land, saying the well-known slogan Go Back.

Later on, the modern port was formed.

Nearly 60 years later, in 2009, the port of Mytilene became the reception center for young people coming to organize the world festival No Border Camp, which played an important role in changing policy in relation to the closed inhuman refugee detention center in Pagani (which was built between 2000-2001) and at its final closure. During this period, the slogan “no borders” prevailed.

However, between 2013 and 2014, in the port, especially during the winter months, there were mass transfers of refugees to the mainland under a vicious regime of human rights violations. At night, children’s and women’s shoes, cardigans, and bags that were left behind, after the forcible enclosure of the refugees on military ships. The port was closed to passers-by. 

It is the beginning of the geo-trauma of the port fencing (see post: the fenced eyes of the port), which will be completed after the EU-Turkey agreement, in March 2016, and the establishment of modern disputed borders between Lesvos – Greece, Greece – European Union, European Union and its surroundings.

Christy Petropoulou


Alberti G., 2010. Across the borders of Lesvos: the gendering of migrants’ detention in the Aegean .
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Stable URL: Accessed: 15-04-2020 16:25 UTC 

Guardian, 2019. Αφιέρωμα στον Soloup στο : 

Αναγνώστου Σ., 2012. Η Παλιά Μυτιλήνη. Μυτιλήνη. Αναμνηστική έκδοση Περιφέρειας Βορείου Αιγαίου. 

Αναγνώστου Σ., 2019. 50 φωτογραφίες από την Απελευθέρωση της Λέσβου (8 Νοεμβρίου – 8 Δεκεμβρίου 1912) 07/11/2019 – 18:16

Αντιρατσιστικό Παρατηρητήριο Πανεπιστημίου Αιγαίου 

Κορδάτος Γ., 1958. Ιστορία της Νεώτερης Ελλάδας, Τ.13 (1900-1924). Αθήνα: Εκδόσεις “20ος αιώνας”.

Πανσέληνος Α., 2001. Τότε που ζούσαμε. Κέδρος. Πρώτη έκδοση 1974.

Παρασκεβαΐδη Η. & Ελευθεριάδη Τ., 1945 Μυτιλήνη Χριστούγεννα 1944 Go Back.  Εκδόσεις Μνήμη. (παλαιότερη έκδοση «Ελεύθερη Λέσβος» 1945). Αποσπάσματα στο :  και 

Σολούπ, 2014. Αϊβαλί. Κέδρος.

Τρουμπέτα Σ. (επιμ.), 2012. Το προσφυγικό και μεταναστευτικό ζήτημα. Διαβάσεις και μελέτες συνόρων. Εκδόσεις Παπαζήση. 

Contested Borderscapes, 2017.


Image 1. Union of Lesvos with Greece November 9, 1912. Source : 
Image 2. Narratives of displaced peoples from Ayvalik and Mytilene via comics. Source: Soloup, 2019, Ayvalik, Kedros Publishing House.
Image 3 α & β. “Go back!” of the EAM on 24 December 1944 against British troops. Source: Panagiotis Koutskoudis, 73 years since the legendary “Go back!”, Ef.Syn. 06.01.2018, 12:14 
Image 4. An attempt to save history in 2010 a year after the closure of the Pagani detention center. Source