More than half a million people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries plagued by war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have arrived on Lesbos over the past year. Hundreds have drowned trying to make it across the narrow stretch of the Aegean separating the island from Turkey. So many, in fact, that the section of the cemetery designated for refugees and migrants ran out of space, and a new cemetery has been built in a village 19 kilometres west of Mytelene, the island's capital.

Refugees Greece
Tombstones are placed on graves of unidentified people who drowned at sea during an attempt to cross a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast, at a cemetery near the village Kato Tritos on the Greek island of LesbosGiorgos Moutafis/ Reuters

Marble plaques in these cemeteries mark the graves of unknown refugees and migrants. Their headstones bear no names, the ages given are approximate, their date of death not always accurate. "Unknown Man, Aged 35, No 221", " Unknown Boy, Aged 7, No 40". The local coroner keeps an archive of DNA samples... just in case relatives come forward.

Mustafa Dawa, who came to Greece from Egypt nearly a decade ago. has taken on the unofficial role of washing, shrouding and burying the dead, their heads faced towards Mecca. "There are many unknown, and because there are so many, there are whole families that have been lost. Entire families perished in the Aegean and we couldn't do anything. At least, the very least we can and must do, is to bury them according to their faith," he said. "I did 57 funerals in seven days. In one day I did 11."

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Mustafa Dawa stands at a cemetery near the village Kato Tritos on the Greek island of LesbosGiorgos Moutafis/ Reuters
Refugees Greece
Tombstones are placed on graves of unidentified refugees who drowned at sea on the Greek island of LesbosGiorgos Moutafis/ Reuters
Lesbos graves
A stone with a date and a name marks the grave of a child who died during an attempt to reach the island of LesbosAlexander Koerner/Getty Images

The headstones serve as a mute reminder of the human toll of the refugee crisis. Elsewhere on the island are more reminders. Remote beaches on the island still bear the traces of arrivals: flimsy, discarded life jackets are strewn across the rocks as well as the shoes, nappies and other personal belongings.

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Hundreds of used life vests lie on a makeshift rubbish dump hidden in the hills on LesbosAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images
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A lifejacket floats on the surface of the water at the port of Mytilene on the Greek island of LesbosDarrin Zammit Lupi/ Reuters

EU and Turkish leaders have agreed to the broad outlines of a deal that would see people arriving in Greece having fled war or poverty be sent back to Turkey unless they apply for asylum. For every person sent back, the EU would take in one Syrian refugee, thus trying to discourage them from the dangerous sea journeys, often arranged by unscrupulous smugglers.

The number of people travelling from Turkey to Greece has abruptly risen as smugglers try to get people in before the recent EU agreements with Turkey come into force. In one 24-hour period this week, more than 2,300 migrants and refugees crossed to Greece by sea. They didn't all make it – five people, including a three-month-old child, drowned on Thursday (10 March) when their speedboat sank off Turkey's western coast en route to Lesbos. Nine people were rescued from the boat, which was carrying Afghans and Iranians.

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A woman tries to hold her baby as she struggles to disembark a raft during a rainstorm on the Greek island of LesbosYannis Behrakis/ Reuters
Refugees Greece
A boy is seen shortly after arriving at a beach in a raft overcrowded with refugees in the Greek island of LesbosYannis Behrakis/ Reuters
Refugees Greece
Hundreds of used life vests lie on a makeshift rubbish dump hidden in the hills above the town in Mithymna, Greece.Alexander Koerner/ Getty Images
Refugees Greece
Volunteers from various non-governmental organizations (NGO) arrange them in the shape of the peace symbol on the Greek island of LesbosGiorgos Moutafis/ Reuters
Refugees Greece
A stray dog stands among outboard motors that were used by refugees to reach the Greek northern island of LesbosAris Messinis/ AFP
Refugees Greece
People hold a baby as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos while crossing the Aegean Sea from TurkeyAris Messinis/ AFP
Refugees Greece
A stray cat walks on used life vests lying on a makeshift rubbish dump hidden in the hills above the town in Mithymna, GreeceAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images
Refugees Greece
A man holds his baby after arriving with other refugees to the port of the northern island of LesbosAris Messinis/ AFP
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A refugee holds the hand of a Greek Coast Guard officer, while being retrieved from a dinghy carrying refugees and migrants aboard the Ayios Efstratios Coast Guard vesselGiorgos Moutafis/ Reuters
Refugees Greece
A girl wrapped in a survival blanket lies on life jackets as refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos while crossing the Aegean SeaAris Messinis/ AFP
Refugees Greece
Syrian refugees are seen during sunrise after arriving on an inflatable boat with other refugees, crossing the sea from Turkey to LesbosAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images
Refugees Greece
A woman and her son wear a thermal blanket shortly after arriving at a beach in a raft overcrowded with refugees in the Greek island of LesbosYannis Behrakis/ Reuters
Refugees Greece
A child is wrapped in a survival blanket upon his arrival with other migrants in Mytilene, on the Greek island of LesbosAris Messinis/ AFP
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A broken fishing boat and life vests are seen on shore in Skala Sikamineas, GreeceAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images
Refugees Greece
Destroyed dinghies and life vests are seen on shore in Skala Sikamineas, GreeceAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images
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Rubber bands float on the sea after an inflatable boat with refugees arrived, crossing the sea from Turkey to LesboAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images
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A Syrian child carries a lifebelt before boarding a dinghy to cross the Aegean Sea to the Greek island of Lesbos from the Ayvacik coast in CanakkaleBulent Kilic/ AFP
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Tyres left by refugees are seen in the Yesil liman district of Canakkale, northwestern Turkey, after they reached the Greek island of LesbosOzan Kose/ AFP
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Refugee's belongings hang on rocks as a boat that capsized is seen behind in Canakkale's Bademli district after at least 37 people drowned when their boat sank in the Aegean SeaOzan Kose/ AFP
Refugees Greece
A boat that capsized in Canakkale's Bademli district after at least 37 refugees drowned when their boat sank in the Aegean SeaOzan Kose/ AFP
Refugees Greece
An inflatable boat rests on the shore after a group of refugees arrived, crossing the sea from Turkey to LesbosAlexander Koerner/ Getty Images

As some European countries shut their borders, others are braced for an influx of people taking alternate routes — and risking new dangers — in their search for a new life. Italy fears many may head west to Albania and use boats to cross the Adriatic Sea. Once the weather improves, people also could turn back to the dangerous route across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. Thousands have died off the Italian island of Lampedusa in recent years on that crossing.