Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras got a shock treatment when visiting the island of Lesvos, at the very front-line of the refugee/migration issue that is gaining speed once more in the forlorn border area of Greece. There, where political expedience has it that “Greek borders are also the borders of the EU”, three years of refugee/migrant presence has turned a local population initially ready to offer solidarity to the wave of human misery coming crashing ashore to something close to despondency if not outright hostility.
Mytilene, the capital town of the island of Lesvos, closed down in protest; sullen rallies were organized to greet Tsipras – who, just two years ago, was attending a spontaneous solidarity event along with Pope Francis and Oecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew speaking out to a global audience. Even worse, just some days earlier, a sit-down of desperate refugees in the central town square of Mytilene was attacked by local toughs and extremist right-wingers with the police arresting… a number of refugees!
As Turkey is edging towards uncomfortable elections and President Erdogan lets relations with the E.U. deteriorate, the refugee/migrant wave coming from the land mass of Anatolia is starting to swell anew. Tens of thousands remain stranded in the Aegean Islands, while their refugee status is getting reviewed – at interminable length. Promised EU help to address the administrative morass is not forthcoming. The migrants/refugees are trapped – in squalid camps.
This overflow at refugee camps is getting worse by the day, while a new wave ominously appears at the land Greek-Turkish border in the Evros region.
(Where, some two months ago, two Greek soldiers patrolling the area were arrested by the Turkish gendarmerie; they are still held in custody, with no formal charges brought against them. Then, last week, a Turkish civilian was arrested by the Greek patrol for transgressing the border line; he was promptly brought to court, sentenced to a suspended 5 months and fined – then expelled).
The dark turn the refugee issue is taking may well stretch the Greek government at breaking point, even if the ongoing negotiations with creditors over debt relief do not end in a planned accident.