Migration in Greece: An Endless Despair
by Menia Kouli*
I would like to express my thoughts today about a crucial and complicated issue, which has been developing in Greece, Europe and all around the world for many years. Nowadays, it seems to be once again on top of the news agenda. The point in question is the migration from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, even Somalia and Sierra Leone. It is clearly out of control; the Aegean islands have long suffered and the problem has spread quickly to the mainland, naturally becoming a European question. Additionally, as mentioned by the international media, it’s not just this side of the Atlantic. The USA have had their share of news breaking issues with migration from the south through their infamous borders.
So why is it that there seems to be so little preparedness when it comes to this topic? Especially in Greece, the geographical bridge to Europe, an invasion by the hundreds daily should be as concerning to the nation as to the EU and the UN. Islands like Lesbos and Chios with villages like Moria and Chalkios (VIAL) are now at a shocking capacity: thousands overcrowding in inhumane conditions, left there to roam aimlessly, to go hungry, to grow frustrated. Ultimately violence and looting commences.
My family and I witness the atrocities daily. Our home is only a few kilometres from one of the “hot spots” in Athens, specifically at Malakasa, Attica. In the past year alone, 15 of the 90 neighboring homes have been broken into and the authorities, the government and the non-profit organizations pretend we don’t exist. My son can’t even go to the playground; gangs roam the roads and fights break out numerous times in a day. These conditions are a cradle for barbarity and cruelty, and unavoidably, racism.
What’s worse, is that indiscriminately more and more people are let in. The truth is that these “hot spots” were meant for refugees in need to flee their war-torn countries, but now any migrant who reaches them can enter. Ever since the 1951 Refugee Convention, laws exist internationally for the protection of the people who have no choice but to flee and seek sanctuary and asylum elsewhere. But migrants choose to leave in hopes of a better life. Illegally, they have been left to take over what was designed to shelter and aid the refugees in dire need. Obviously, it’s not just the NGO’s and the Greek government who are reckless; Europe idly wasted valuable time and Turkey has been finding more and more ways to rid itself of the predicament.
Considering the amount of money the EU has thrown at the problem (over €613.5 million, not counting the emergency funding), why do we all still tolerate these conditions? Thousands of souls are desperately waiting for procedures and bureaucracy, while the prospect of “asylum” echoes both a hope and a nightmare. We see the reports, we hear the promises, but the keg is about to explode. Even when Greeks were asked, 64% said their country has been negatively affected, while they also believed the NGOs are mismanaging the funds.
We must remember though, both sides are victims in this. These already battered people and families are forced into inhumane conditions. Our own families have been robbed of their normality and peace while, keep in mind, the economic crisis is still very much prevalent, taxes are high and our everyday lives are already under tremendous pressure. The air here is heavy with fear and despair, with the burden of hypocrisy. Noticeably, this has spread and it won’t stop escalating throughout the world, birthing more prejudice and hate. So as a mother, a woman and, most importantly, a human being; I urge you to be a voice, to ask questions and demand specific answers. We have the means and we have the rights.
*Director of Public Affairs, Takis Foundation – Research Center for the Art & the Sciences (KETE)