Greece has seen a spike in the number of refugees and migrants arriving on its eastern islands by rubber dinghies via nearby Turkey. Aid agencies estimate about 2,000 made the sea crossing every day in August, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These refugees and migrants have to wait on islands like Kos until they get their immigration papers, before heading to the Greek mainland and trying to make their way north through the Balkans.

Getty Images photographers Dan Kitwood and Win McNamee are documenting this epic journey. In this gallery, they record the first leg of the route.

Syria refugees journey through Europe
Refugees and migrants who set off from Turkey at night paddle an inflatable dinghy towards a beach on the Greek island of Kos at dawnDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Relieved Pakistani men land on shore crossing the Aegean Sea from TurkeyDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A man clutches his baby upon arriving on a beach on the island of Kos at sunrise after crossing a three-mile stretch of the Aegean Sea from Turkey in an inflatable dinghyDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A Syrian man prays as the sun rises alongside the port in KosWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A tourist wades in the sea as people paddle a small boat towards the beach on KosWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
An exhausted Syrian man is dragged out of the water after swimming the last 50m to shoreDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A Syrian man lies exhausted on the beach after paddling a small boat across a three-mile stretch of the AegeanWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A migrant from Gambia praises Allah after safely completing the journey across a three-mile stretch of the Aegean from TurkeyWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A young child called Mohammad from the Gambia is helped to shore after arriving on a beach in an inflatable dinghyDan Kitwood/Getty Images

The refugees and migrants face a long wait on Kos as Greek authorities struggle to process the ever increasing numbers arriving by sea. Those migrants who can afford it stay in hotels on the island, but more sleep in tents, abandoned buildings or in the open.

As the Syrians are fleeing their country's civil war, they are treated as refugees. This gives them greater rights under international law than those from other countries, who are regarded as economic migrants. A passenger ferry has been brought to Kos to house and register Syrian refugees.

Those from other countries often stay in places such as the Captain Elias, an abandoned hotel on the outskirts of the island's main town. They sleep on worn-out mattresses laid side by side in the lobby or on cardboard boxes laid out on the terrace.

Syria refugees journey through Europe
Men shower on the beach in Kos at sunriseDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Men rest on worn out mattresses on the floor of the former bar of the abandoned Captain Elias Hotel in Kos, home to refugees and migrants from many different nationsWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Two Muslim men offer afternoon prayers as a boy chases after a ball in a courtyard of the abandoned Captain Elias HotelWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A man relaxes in a makeshift shelter outside an abandoned hotel in KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Men cook food over a fire at an abandoned hotel in KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Syrian refugees sleep on the pavement along the walls of the Fortress of Kos, built in the 14th centuryWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Families sleep in tents on the seafront in KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Nabil Cinan, a Syrian refugee who broke his leg while crossing the Aegean Sea, uses a stick to exit his tentWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A woman takes a picture from her car as migrants and refugees protest about the lack of progress in obtaining transit papers in KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Syrian migrants protest outside the police station as they urge authorities to provide them with legal immigration papersWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
African migrants hold up signs urging Greek authorities to issue their official immigration papers outside the police station on KosWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Men wait to hear their names called so that they can collect their papers outside the police station in KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
People check a list with the names of those whose legal immigration papers have been approved, outside the police station on KosWin McNamee/Getty Images

Syrian refugees and migrants who have received their papers are allowed to board a ferry to the mainland. The fare for each passenger is €50 (£37) but tickets are hard to come by. The ferries are chartered by the Greek government to ease conditions on the islands of Kos, Lesbos, Samos, Symi and Agathonisi, in the eastern Aegean.

Syria refugees journey through Europe
A family from Afghanistan wait for a ferry to take them to AthensDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A boy lies on a pile of lifejackets on at the ferry port in KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Migrants wait to board a ferry from the island of Kos for transport to the Greek mainland port of Piraeus near AthensWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Migrants and refugees who received their immigration papers board a ferry bound for AthensWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A man from Pakistan relaxes with a cigarette on board the Blue Star ferry bound for Athens from KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A young girl shelters from the wind in an alcove of the Blue Star ferry bound for Athens from KosDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A Syrian girl sleeps onboard the ferry during a 10-hour journey from Kos to PiraeusWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A man sleeps wrapped up in a curtain during a 10-hour ferry journey from the island of Kos to the Greek mainlandDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A man sleeps in a stairwell between decks on the ferryWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Migrants and refugees sleep under a Coke advertisement onboard the ferryWin McNamee/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
Men sleep under a mural onboard the Blue Star ferry during its ten-hour journey from the island of Kos to the mainland port of PiraeusDan Kitwood/Getty Images

Buses wait on the quayside at the port of Piraeus to transfer the refugees and migrants to trains taking them to downtown Athens. From there, they typically headed northwards by train or bus to the city of Thessaloniki, hoping for passage into Macedonia.

Syria refugees journey through Europe
Refugees and tourists board a bus heading to Athens Train Station from PiraeusDan Kitwood/Getty Images
Syria refugees journey through Europe
A Syrian woman sits on a bus for Athens after disembarking from a Blue Star ferry at the port of PiraeusDan Kitwood/Getty Images

In their search for a better life, almost all of the migrants and refugees hope to reach the more affluent countries of northern and western Europe such as Germany and Sweden. The UN estimates up to 3,000 migrants are expected to cross into Macedonia every day in the coming months, most of them refugees fleeing war, particularly from Syria.

Getty Images photographers Kitwood and McNamee are currently in Macedonia, and intend to travel through Serbia and Hungary. IBTimesUK has now published a gallery detailing this next leg of the migrants' journey to western Europe.