Greek Business File, November-December 2019, No 123
Βy Kyra Adam
The lonely refugee path of Greece
When New Democracy Party took over government in July, no one thought that migration issues would become the biggest and the most enduring problem to solve. The number of refugees and migrants arriving on the Greek islands of the East Aegean has reached the highest level since the 2016 EU-Turkey Agreement on migration. As a result, the living conditions of these people are miserable, dangerous and appalling. This, therefore, is a crisis.
The Greek government is trapped between Turkey and the rest of Europe. President Erdogan has repeatedly warned the EU that unless Ankara receives 40billion euro (!) for the construction of villages and district centers with full facilities for the inordinate number of Syrians refugees already in Turkey within the safe zone created in Syria, he will “release” huge numbers of Syrian refugees, migrants and detained jihad terrorists to come to Europe via the Greek coasts.
European countries, one after the other, have closed their borders to refugees and immigrants, while Berlin and Paris have clearly warned Greek PM K. Mitsotakis not to send even one refugee to their soil.
So, Greece has to deal with the rising numbers of refugees and immigrants reaching Greek territory, by herself alone.
The government decided to toughen the asylum rules for refugees and immigrants, trying to separate one from the other. Those granted asylum status will remain on Greek soil; illegal migrants will take the road back to Turkey or their homeland. This is an ideal plan which unfortunately will not be accomplished because it is very difficult to distinguish refugees from migrants and most of all Ankara is not at all willing to take back people, who will be always... free to return to the Greek coasts.
The serious decision taken by the ND government is to relocate a large number of the refugees from the overfl owing camps of the Eastern Aegean Greek islands to the Greek mainland. The new centers will host 1,000-5,000 asylum seekers, providing facilities for a “normal life”.
The illegal migrants will be detained in camps waiting for their relocation back to Turkey or their own countries.
The plan is an ambitious one, nevertheless it poses too many questions and problems.
With these decisions the Greek state effectively admits that all refugees seeking asylum to travel to Europe will permanently stay in Greece, since European partners have already clearly shown that they no longer want to host refugees from Turkey to their soil. (All plans and decisions refer only to the problems of the West Mediterranean, excluding the problems in the Aegean and East Mediterranean). This consists a violation of the EU-Turkey Agreements of 2015 and 2016. Turkey is obliged to accept back those asylum seekers who failed to get it, but Ankara is crystal clear in denying her obligation. European partners, on the one hand, have never fulfilled their obligation for the agreed quotas of refugees in each European country. On the other hand, the previous European Commission, during the October Summit, encouraged Greece to relocate, as soon as possible, large numbers of refugees to the Greek mainland without any further details or proposals for their reallocation to the other European countries.
Greek communities, villages, cities, mayors, even deputies of New Democracy Party are now protesting against the refugee relocations to their district, because – and this is true- there is no infrastructure ready for the accommodation of these people (schools, medical centers, housing etc.) and thus, the life of local people will worsen (as happened during the economic crisis). In addition, the abrupt mixture of people of completely different cultural and religious origins in the underpopulated Greek periphery feeds fear for the future...
The Greek Government is trying hard to diminish this negative backlash in the mass media, but the result is unknown.
There are a few more problems:
Who is going to pay for this huge refugee plan the Greek government has decided upon? Greek taxpayers will not easily accept the idea that part of their heavily reduced income will serve refugees who “have come to stay in Greece” uninvited. Will European partners contribute to the forced Greek plans, although Chancellor Merkel has promised to run the case?
And finally: Is Greek soil going to be the “natural high security prison” for the jihad terrorists of European origin until now detained in Turkey?
Answers will be available in the near future.