The Greek inhabitants often offered the new arrivals a bite to eat and referred them to the nearest police station or railway station.
But the warm welcome diminished. When Turkey began smuggling thousands of people into Greece and insisted that its old regional rival and NATO ally accept them as refugees, the Greek government sealed off the border and called in the police and military to help stem the tide.
The Greeks in the border region rallied behind the expanding border troops, collected supplies and offered every possible contribution to what is considered a national effort to stop a Turkish-sponsored incursion.
In several cases, the authorities asked villagers familiar with the local terrain for help in finding migrants who managed to slip through holes cut in a border fence or cross the river Evros – in Turkish, Meric – which borders most of the 212-kilometer (132-mile) border.
“We were born here, we live here, we work here, we know the border crossings better than anyone else,” says Panayiotis Ageladarakis, a community leader in Amorio, a village about 300 meters from the riverbank.
Other villages also responded to the call for volunteer trackers. Small groups of unarmed men monitor known crossings after dark.