Greece is being threatened with the closure of its borders, effectively trapping hundreds of thousands of refugees who have made it across the sea from Turkey. We are being accused that, for refugees who see Greece as a transit point on their journey north, ‘Athens is happy to oblige, waving them through, providing transport, but never hosting the caravan of humanity wending its way into central Europe.’
We are also blamed for ‘not ‘protecting our borders’, thus endangering the social fabric of other European countries.
Greeks are furious about this ‘blame game’. We have been offered money in return for keeping the refugees, an offer that is deeply insulting. How about our own social fabric? From as far back as the 80s, Greece has already hosted a vast amount of refugees: Asians and Africans, Palestinians and Kurds, and, after the dissolution of the communist bloc, people from Eastern Europe, especially Albanians, Bulgarians and Rumanians. A large percentage of these are now very well assimilated, speaking the language perfectly and blending in with their neighbours—despite the usual bureaucratic shambles regarding their documents. In a population of around 11 million, around one million are immigrants.
This society, already strained to breaking point by six years of internationally mandated austerity, is now asked to accept responsibility for an unprecedented situation for which it is certainly not to blame. It is a fact that the Greek government has not fulfilled all its duties in this matter yet. But which government has? We have seen the rapid deterioration of the situation in Germany – Mrs. Merkel’s neck is on the line for her open-door policy. We read daily about the situation on the Hungarian border, or in the Jungle in Calais. And now the tinder-box is to be kept solely within our borders, courtesy of our European partners and allies.
It is certain Europe cannot accept everyone, and the terrorist dimension has added complications to the issue. A lot of the able-bodied young men wanting to take advantage of social benefits available elsewhere should be returned home. People have worked for those benefits for generations, and it is normal they should want to protect their way of life. But everyone has to work together towards a solution, and the Arab countries have to do their bit as well. Finally, Turkey has been promised three billion euro to deal with the problem – yet that is where most of the trafficking takes place.
Greece cannot and must not be turned into a dystopia, a giant campsite, or, as some have said, into Europe’s prison.
Frontex has declared it is impossible to patrol a coastline which includes 117 inhabited islands (there are 6000 islands in total, including some that are just large rocks). So how are we supposed to do it? Surely the refugees should be stopped in Turkey, before they drown as they are doing on a daily basis, now the seas have turned cold and rough—but apparently the traffickers are offering cheap ‘off season’ rates. Every single day, we wake up to the news: 12 drowned, 7 drowned and so on, all on our shores. Some can be saved – what are we supposed to do, throw them back into the sea?
I will finish with an account, freely translated, written by islander Nina Giorgiadou:
‘Today was another ‘normal’ day. For us normality has gone beyond seeing your children unemployed and depressed, not being able to pay a new lot of taxes, or having your property confiscated.
Our normality has been enriched by repeated doses of mass death, packaged in black bags that are piled, when full, one upon the other.
Here is a resume of today’s normality.
We were woken in the dead of night by one of those phone calls that make your heart race. We ran to the port, bearing clothes, blankets, hot tea and a tendency to rapid depression.
The first body arrived before dawn. A small bundle, probably a child. Then came 26 survivors. The 12 were more dead than alive, deeply hypothermic; they were piled rapidly into ambulances.
The rest who were more ‘alive’ we undressed and rubbed down, muttering endless and meaningless times ‘Ok, my friend, tamam,’ all mixed up with a lot of tears and snot since there’s no time to wipe your nose when hurrying to dress the frozen.
Afterwards, our normality included 13 more bodies, big and small, and an attempt not to vomit. Where to put so many dead?
To continue within the framework of normality, we received ten boxes of body bags. To do what with? Let’s put them aside for times of need. The industry operating around death is impressive.
The next phase includes scattered images within the shelter.
Aliki is holding in her arms the 15-year-old girl who has lost her parents and both siblings. Aliki is the smaller of the two. You have to wonder—who is consoling whom?
Vasilia has gathered the children in a corner of the high-ceilinged space we gracefully call ‘the playground’. They are the offspring of those who arrived the day before yesterday. Today not a single child was saved. Vasilia is telling stories in a low voice. In Greek. They listen as if they understand. She has her way. Stories always have a way.
Outside, the coastguard boat is passing again. How many? Around twenty? How many were you, Sam, on the rust bucket?
Sixty or eighty. We’re missing twenty lives. They will never be found. They will never even be listed as missing.
Tomorrow is the day for identifying the dead. Our normality will be transported to the morgue. It will be a little more tense, I suppose. But it will still be our normality. Distorted, but normal.
Oh yes! The clock shows it is already tomorrow.
Another normal day will soon dawn.
(Borrowed from the blog of katerinafullermoon)