A Greek doctor consoles a woman holding her child in an emergency blanket on the Greek island of Lesbos.

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Petition says "unsung heroes" should be recognized for their efforts helping migrants

More than 800,000 migrants entered Europe via Greece last year

CNN  — 

Residents of the Greek islands have found themselves on the front lines of Europe’s migration crisis, rescuing, feeding and sheltering hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants who found their way to their shores.

Now an online petition has been launched calling for the efforts of these “unsung heroes” on islands in the Aegean Sea to be recognized with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The petition, on the Avaaz website, is addressed to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and Greece’s Immigration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas and had attracted more than 288,000 signatures by Sunday.

It reads:

“Ordinary residents of Greek islands and other volunteers have been on the front lines of Europe’s refugee crisis for months, opening up their hearts and homes to save hundreds of thousands fleeing war and terror.

“For their compassion and courage, for treating those in danger with humanity, and for setting an example for the rest of the world to follow, we citizens around the world, nominate these brave women and men for a Nobel Peace Prize.

“Nobody is more deserving of such honor than these unsung heroes.”

A message from the petition’s authors on the page said Mouzalas had indicated that Greece’s government would consider backing the petition.

The deadline for nominations is February 1. The petition’s authors urged supporters to spread the petition, in hope of securing 1 million signatures before the deadline.

Nobel prizes are awarded only to individuals and organizations, so the official nominee would likely be the volunteer networks that organize to support and comfort the migrants.

More than 1 million migrants entered Europe in “irregular arrivals” last year, most fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The overwhelming majority of migrants – more than 80% – arrived in Europe by way of Greece, the IOM said, before setting off to their target destinations.

The wave of migrants has made the Mediterranean “the deadliest route for migrants on our planet,” the IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing has said, with nearly 3,700 people drowning in its waters last year.

On Greek islands such as Lesbos, piles of discarded life jackets are a sign of the constant stream of new arrivals.