The Worldwide Tribe

Meet Jaz.

And Nils, her brother.


The O’Hara siblings used to work, respectively, in fashion and advertising. Then they visited the Jungle, a large refugee camp near Calais. They’d been hearing little bits about it, mostly about how it was affecting holiday makers by delaying the trains going across the English Channel.
They became interested, because their parents were already involved in the long and complicated process  needed to foster a refugee. Since it wasn’t so far from their home in Kent, they decided to go over for the day and take a look.



Two years later, they have acquired two new brothers, one of whom comes from Eritrea and the other from Afghanistan. And they have founded the Worldwide Tribe.

The first time they visited Calais, there weren’t many volunteers about yet. They were, of course, shocked by the conditions there, and by the fact that there weren’t many people helping at all. However, what made the greatest impression, was, in Nils’s words, ‘How nice and welcoming the refugees were to us. Everyone wanted to share what little they had, to feed us and make us tea.’ People were polite, smiling, and full of optimism. The siblings went home, feeling very emotional about what they’d seen, and Jaz wrote about it on her Facebook page. The post went viral. Overnight, people started sending donations, both physical and monetary. In a short amount of time, they’d gathered a lot of clothes, shoes and food, as well as money.



Jaz and Nils soon realized that in the long run they weren’t best placed for managing warehouses and dealing with the distribution of donations – others were better at it. What they felt they were good at was telling people’s stories. They started diverting donations and volunteers towards other organizations, and they created the Worldwide Tribe.
They see their organization not so much as a charity, but as a platform for people to share their stories.



Jaz concentrates on content creation and writing, setting up talks in schools and universities and organizing different events. Both siblings manage the production of documentaries, of which the latest is the film DIASPORA.



Meanwhile, Nils and two friends have been setting up WiFi in camps. This is very important to refugees as it is the only way they can keep in contact with what’s left of their families, and also get information about their status, prospects, etc. This activity has resulted in the creation of a product which has generated commercial interest, which they believe has the scope to get bigger, and maybe result in the generation of funds towards their projects.



I was curious about the two boys the O’Hara parents are fostering. One, Mez, comes from Eritrea, which he fled because his only choice was to spend his life in the Army, where his brother already is. Having arrived in England aged 14 speaking not a word of English, he has now done all his GCSEs and is heading to college. He still has family in Eritrea and keeps in touch with them. In the beginning things were difficult because the cultural differences are huge but he managed to adapt quite quickly and has done ‘incredibly well’, according to Nils.

The other boy, Arash, is Afghani. He saw some of his family killed before his eyes, has lost all contact with them and doesn’t know if his mother is still alive. Speaking to Nils, I found it hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for this family to open their home – and how ultimately rewarding. I asked Nils how the two got on and he laughed and said: ‘They get on OK – but they are classic teenage boys.’



The O’Haras’ vision for the Worldwide Tribe is to inspire as many people as possible to share and contribute in any way they can, whether by volunteering, sharing a post or just talking about things. They hope this will create change from the ground up, while pointing out that their platform is not at all political.

Nils hopes the WiFi project will take off – if they manage to commercialise the product, it will earn money they can then plough back into the Worldwide Tribe, to help more people across Europe and the Middle East.

I asked Nils if it was hard to keep positive at all times. His answer was that they do see a lot of misery and it’s difficult not to take it home. What helps them is that although they spend a lot of time in the camps, in Greece, Turkey and Lebanon, they are not there all the time, so they manage to get some distance. Of course, they have seen bad things, and violence, but they have mostly been inspired by the positivity and humanity they encounter. They feel they’ve learned a lot and are awed by the human spirit, and the incredible stories they’ve heard. They are amazed by how people in such difficult circumstances keep trying and finding resources, and they reckon the experience has generally been far more positive than negative.



You should go on their site, and read some of the incredible stories there.  Such as the one about Noor, who’s in a wheelchair but is determined to become a judge, or Besh, who, with his four younger brothers, searched practically every refugee camp in Europe to find his mother, and then miraculously located her in Dunkirk. You can also follow Jaz on Instagram or Facebook.

Young people spreading good will – perhaps it will offset some of those intent on spreading havoc…

It’s not always sunny in Greece

The Greek daily paper Kathimerini posted this video today, about life in one of the refugee camps in Greece, where are large number of people are stuck indefinitely, with no idea of what will happen to them.



In another article, I read that in Syria the army has started to conscript civilians.

Relatives of detainees claim that Syrian forces are arresting and forcibly conscripting civilians fleeing opposition-held areas of east Aleppo. Dozens of military-aged teachers, medics and aid workers are reported to have been rounded up and spirited away, as regime troops push further into the city.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group,  more than 300 people have gone missing from east Aleppo since the regime began its blistering ground offensive late last month. They believe the army has been looking to bolster its dwindling numbers, having suffered a huge loss of manpower during the bloody five-year-conflict.

It is difficult to know what conclusions to draw from all this, but no wonder people are putting their lives in the hands of traffickers…

The definition of Dystopia

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)

The Sunday Papers

Today is the second Sunday of the new year. Time for stocktaking – what are the prospects before us?

I took a look at the main Sunday papers. Although of different political persuasions, the themes they deal with are the same.


The problematic state pension scheme, the constantly increasing taxes, and the difficult measures that have to be taken in order to satisfy our lenders. Depressing, to say the least!


The second round of voting to choose a leader for the New Democracy party (the main opposition party) takes place today. It is between Mr. Meimarakis, a member of the old guard, and Mr. Mitsotakis, much younger and more modern, but a member of an old political – and often controversial – family. Is there, in actual fact and despite what they’re proclaiming, much to choose between the two? Voters who turned out in decent numbers for the first round are, so far today, exhibiting election exhaustion.





European countries are complaining about the number of refugees allowed into Europe but, let’s not forget, most of those are still in Greece (to say nothing of the vast numbers stuck in Turkey). It is clear the situation is totally out of control. Today the articles were about increasing instances of fights amongst the refugees themselves, especially between groups with different religions; abuse of women and children; cases of women selling themselves in order to pay the traffickers; extortion; black markeering in cellphones, fake documents and other goods.

In a horrifying statistic given out by the organization “Missing Children Europe“, 50% of unaccompanied children arriving at one of the refugee centers disappear within 48 hours never to be found again.

Very few of the refugees are actually in the centers – the rest are wandering around, penniless, hungry, hounded by the police.

Meanwhile, the trafficking business is thriving, starting from Syria itself, where allegedly there are special ‘schools’ coaching people how to reach Europe.

In Bulgaria, the police has issued a warning to hunters to be careful what they shoot at in the woods, in case the prey is not a wild boar but some refugee hiding from the authorities.

However, in a different article, there are glowing reports from various workers from the NGOs working on the island of Lesbos. This is close to the Turkish coast and has received huge numbers of refugees. The NGOs are doing a great job, but they’re also full of praise for the islanders, who have been welcoming the refugees to the best of their ability. People collect food, prepare formula for babies, grandmothers are even knitting little sweaters. Many volunteers from all over the world have also arrived, some giving up their vacation to help, others declaring their willingness to stay ‘until the war ends in Syria.’

Another, more curious, article deals with the refugees who have arrived with their pets. As a general rule, this has been well received by the Greeks, who think it a very human touch. In some other countries, however, (apparently Slovenia is one,) the refugees’ pets have become an object of political pressure, as well as a business: border controls confiscate cats and dogs, even those with passports, microchips and the correct vaccinations, and put them in quarantine,  demanding for their keep and release exorbitant amounts (up to €2000). Otherwise the animals are euthanized…


The Sunday supplements have the usual restaurant reviews: a new Italian in Kolonaki, an Asian street food bar, a tacos place. And two great salad recipes, to detox after the festive overeating. My favorite? A rocket salad with roasted beetroot, walnuts and orange.

The political situation remains unstable, and thing are not looking good yet. But the start of a new year always feels like a new start, and there is a tiny whiff of optimism in the air.

In other, unrelated, news , as Anita Kunz put it: ‘As if everything else this past year weren’t enough , now Kim Jong-un shows up again.’
She’s doing a cover of him as a baby playing with toy missiles, for the New Yorker.

Please feel free to join in with other pleasant surprises awaiting us in 2016!

The refugee crisis revisited

My heart sank when I read in the paper that Burkina Faso is on the brink of civil war. More people wanting to come over here, was my first thought.
The refugee crisis has gone on for so long, and is so out of control, that serious political and economic dimensions have been added to the humanitarian aspect.

On the one hand, it has become big business. Here is some number crunching:
It costs a minimum of €1200 per person for the passage from Bodrum to Kos. For 50 people in each boat this equals a whopping €60.000! And that’s just for a short crossing – I have no idea what traffickers from Libya make, when they pile 700-800 people into a rust bucket and cast it off without enough fuel to reach Italy…
Once you get to Greece, apparently kickbacks are extracted everywhere: €200 to get to the head of the queue, €200 to get on the bus, and so on. A lot of these ‘facilitators’ are themselves Syrian.
It’s €4000 from Morocco across the straights of Gibraltar to Tarifa in Spain. By jet ski! Although it is very dangerous since it is beyond the safe range, the trip must be undertaken under cover of darkness and the water is freezing.
For wealthier Syrians, safer, more comfortable trips can be arranged via Dubai to Turkey, then from Izmir to Rhodes on larger boats. A few more thousand euros then have to be paid out in taxis, hotels and fake documents. I read an interview with a Syrian doctor who had turned ‘travel agent’ after failing to cross over himself – he was saying people trust him because he’s a doctor and prided himself on not having a single person die on his boats.

On the other hand, attitudes are hardening:
Donald Tusk, the EU president, has claimed that migrants are being sent to Europe as a campaign of “hybrid warfare” to force concessions to its neighbors. An influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees becomes a “weapon” and a “political bargaining chip” used by the EU’s neighbors who want to put pressure on Europe to obtain extra aid or other benefits.
Mr Tusk warned that the Schengen system of passport-free travel would collapse and Europe would become a “breeding ground of fear” unless Europe’s external borders are secure. There is mounting frustration in Brussels at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s refusal to seal Turkey’s coasts and border with Greece.

At the same time, a controversial plan to relocate 160,000 people from Greece and Italy to other parts of the EU by quota was announced.
The countries that refused this project, one of which is Romania, claimed that the immigrants will alter the fabric of their society. That’s as it may be, but people from these countries have themselves emigrated in the not so distant past. Greece accepted more than 20,000 Romanian refugees after the fall of communism. Did they ask themselves if they would alter the fabric of our society?

Unfortunately, the West does bear a part of responsibility for this situation, by meddling in these people’s countries. As usual, economic interests are mostly to blame. For one, the arms industry needs wars in order to make a profit – then there is oil, and minerals, and construction… Now we have to deal with the fall-out. Theoretically, it would make a lot more sense to spend the money making their countries safe for them, than dealing with them in Europe. It is probably too late now. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has suggested there should be a safe haven organized for them in the Middle East. I don’t know how feasible that would be, but I do think the Arab world should be doing more to help.

Meanwhile, in Athens, the situation remains dire.

On September 30th, a friend of mine went to Victoria Square, in downtown Athens, to evaluate the migrant situation first-hand. This is what she wrote:

‘Flanked by three friends, all laden with bags bulging with juice boxes, cans of long-life milk, packets of biscuits and cereal bars, markers, children’s books and clothes, I exited my car on the busiest side of the square. We were immediately accosted by tens of people, including many children.
I wasn’t psychologically prepared to be faced with such palpable desperation. The situation was worse than I’d imagined. And a thousand times more unsettling, too.
People grabbed at the bags, tore them straight out of our hands, served themselves to as many goods as they could carry. We made sure the children received priority but, soon, we were mobbed by grown men, too.
It was actually pretty terrifying. If you don’t see it first hand, it’s hard to fathom how bad it is.
Turns out the people here were not political refugees from Syria. These were all illegal immigrants from Afghanistan. I was shocked to find that they were not even all that grateful for the things we’d brought.
I certainly don’t regret going, but, having said that, I value my safety and I’m not about to go back any time soon. I would not recommend that unprepared civilians intervene, but I did approach a harried-looking volunteer from Holland who shed some light as to what you can do if you really must help in person.

1- Bring warm clothing, blankets and socks. With winter coming, this is what they will need the most.
2- Bring food, always a necessity.
3- Circulate with a zippered bag rather than paper or plastic, both of which tear easily, and hand the goods out directly to the people you choose. Keep moving. Stay too long in one place and you will be mobbed. (Easier said than done.)
4- Prioritize women and children. The men come third.
5- Make sure you are not carrying valuables. Gypsies who roam amongst the Afghans are quick to pounce on unsuspecting strangers.

The situation is really too bad to be true and pressing questions arise: where will all these people live should they choose—or be forced—to stay here? After all, they can’t camp out forever.’



Other friends who ventured to Victoria square told me approximately the same things, adding, however, that the baker where they went to buy food for the refugees gave them ten loaves which he also cut into pieces for them.The same thing happened to us, when we went to buy medicines for them at a pharmacy. The pharmacist added a large number of freebies to our bag. Greeks, whatever their other faults, remain human and sensitive to the pain of their fellow men.

Roger Cohen, writing in the New York Times, says:

Greece has made me think about everything statistics don’t tell you. No European country has been as battered in recent years. No European country has responded with as much consistent humanity to the refugee crisis.

For the whole article, click here.

A question of humanity

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
From Home by Warsan Shire, a Somali poet

Yannis is a baker on an Athens street. He’s finding it harder and harder to go out of his shop, because of the smell. People, lots of people, are camped outside, in tents. Some just sleep on the pavement. He’s been giving them bread, but how long can this go on? One week follows the next, and his regular customers are dwindling. They’re making a detour to another bakery, because the smell is awful and the spectacle heartbreaking.
People have been giving the refugees food, but they have nowhere to wash themselves or their clothes. Mostly, they have no toilets. At least it’s summer, so they’re not cold at night, but during the day the sun is merciless.
Many such scenes of desperation are played out on the refugee route from the Greek islands through Athens and then north, towards Germany or Calais, for those whose aim is the UK. Another route starts in Italy.

In some places, a distinct note of xenophobia if not racism is creeping in. The migrants have variously been described as ‘marauding’ and ‘swarming’. Some countries have been trying to keep them out by any means.  In a photograph that made the front pages, a man with mournful brown eyes is handing a baby dressed in a pink onesie over rolls of razor wire on the Hungarian border. Czech officials caused a scandal by stamping refugees’ arms with numbers. The Italians have closed the border at Brennero. Passengers on the Eurostar remained stranded in the dark for hours after the train was stopped because of refugees walking on the track and on the roof.

imageAngela Merkel has said that the migration crisis is a bigger test for the European Union than the Greek financial meltdown. To my mind, she’s the first European leader to have grasped the immensity and urgency of the problem and to have taken responsibility for dealing with it. Thanks to her handling, Germany has regained the moral high ground. It has been obliged to lead in this matter due to the incapacity of the rest of Brussels to deal with the problem.

Merkel has been heard to remark that what Germany is living through now will change the face of the country over the next few years. The same is true for the whole of Europe, and it is up to Europe to make this issue as positive as possible. After all, the populations of both Europe and the U.S. are to a large degree made up of immigrants.

Sadly, some refugees who ‘made it’ report the experience was ‘not worth it’. These are people who paid all they had, risked death multiple times, had to eat grass to survive, were kidnapped and held captive for ransom on the way, then nearly drowned, and finally spent months in camps – only to find a lonely existence, excluded from local society, struggling to learn a foreign language and strange customs, in the hope of getting a menial job. They tell the ones left back home not to do it. But no one listens.

Why? Because things at home are much, much worse. People don’t leave all they know on a whim. It is interesting to read On Encouragement, an essay by Helen Jones:

They have no choice.

It is appalling that by failing to agree on how this crisis could be confronted, the EU is now fostering a new species of international crime. Illegal migration is now big business. Not only are these displaced people being robbed, terrorized and sometimes killed by gangsters, they are also being preyed upon by political manipulators.

The degree of collective irresponsibility is truly shocking. In Greece, for example, the authorities have spectacularly delayed in setting up the structures that would allow them to draw upon an EU fund available for the purpose. The blame game is shameful to behold. What is going on in most of Europe is way beyond the limits of what should be acceptable to any enlightened society.


You have all seen the images: of the toddler washed up on the shore, of the overflowing boats, the tents, the crowds. I will not post more. You can read the statistics, the declarations, the arguments. I have no arguments. But if you want to know what it’s like for them, read The Rahma Diaries blog, and especially the post A Letter from one Mother to Another. Rahma is a mother with a baby, and she can write.

And read Russell Chapman’s blog post: Escape to Freedom. Bringing a Syrian Family to Safety. Russell is a freelance writer and photographer who undertook to help a family travel from Athens to ‘a particular country in Europe’. Hair-raising and harrowing.

Photos by Anna Koenig

A boat to nowhere

Picture this:

imageThe Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars), at 25 hectares the biggest park in the center of Athens, built to commemorate the heroes of the 1821 revolution. It was refurbished some years ago at a cost of more than nine million euros, but has since gone slightly to seed, like much else in Athens. Drug users lurk in shady corners. And now a new dimension has been added to this landscape: rows of small, colorful tents line the Avenue of Heroes, clotheslines are strung between trees. Afghan refugees started this camp a couple of weeks ago and their numbers are swelling by the day. Amongst them are small children and pregnant women.

imageThis scenario is repeated in squares and on pavements throughout the city. Shopkeepers around offer the refugees food, but they don’t want them there. It’s bad for business, and business is bad anyway. Charitable organizations do the best they can. There is little help from the state.


Hundreds of immigrants are arriving every day on the islands across from Turkey. More than 48.000 have come in the first semester of 2015, compared with 43.000 for the whole of 2014.

Exhausted, scared and lost, they are forced to wait for days in difficult conditions before being ‘processed’ by overworked officials in understaffed and underfunded local authority offices. Sometimes fights break out between nationalities: if the Afghans believe the Syrians are receiving better treatment, for example. When cleared, they make their way to Athens. But they don’t want to stay in Greece, where people are already struggling under an unbearable burden. Their dream is to end up in Germany, or get to England via France. Some have relatives there. There is chaos at the Larisa train station, chaos at Patras port, where they try to stow aboard lorries going to Italy.

And  we are talking about those that have actually made it across. In the old days, slavers had to make sure the merchandise at least arrived in a fit state to be sold. Modern traffickers – or ‘brokers’ as they like to call themselves – demand to be paid in advance. Then they just pile the human cargo into boats made for a tenth of their number, if that, and set them loose upon the seas – sometimes with not even enough fuel to make land. Boats are left to the care of teenage captains, the tanks empty, people locked in the hold.

Many drown. The rest are rescued by the coastguard. Unfortunately, more rescue missions have resulted in increased traffic, as was seen with the Mare Nostrum operation in Italy. The traffickers are on a constant search for new routes, new methods of transport.

imageHow can Europe deal with such a massive transfer of populations, on a scale never seen before in history?

In the twenty-first century, in a society where the accumulation of material goods is a given, these people have NOTHING. It’s a concept difficult to comprehend. No clothes, no food, no papers, no home. Nothing. It is impossible to put oneself in the place of humans so desperate they are willing to leave behind everything they know, to risk life and limb, and who then arrive in a country where they are destitute, do not speak the language, and are repelled by all available means.

In an article entitled ‘You’re Better Than This, Europe’,  Nils MUIZNIEKS writes:

Europe needs to take a long, hard look at itself — and at the reality of the refugee issue. The European Union could start by overhauling its laws governing asylum and migration. By increasing legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe, with measures like eased humanitarian visas and family reunification rules, it would reduce the number of migrants taking perilous routes. That would help cut the ground from beneath the feet of smugglers, who grow richer when migration restrictions are harsh. (International New York Times, JUNE 28, 2015)

imageEurope, however, seems far from up to the task. Horrifying scenes are taking place on each side of the Channel. Meanwhile, the Hungarians are building a fence with Serbia to keep them out. Police and army are used to ‘secure’ borders. And each country, if you read the press, is mostly concerned with its own problems, while trying to foist the blame and the responsibility onto everyone else.

There is no doubt that the situation needs to be brought under control, especially since rumors abound that the boats are used to bring over ISIS militants from Libya amongst the refugees. There are no obvious or easy solutions, but the only way forward is for all countries to work together. Europe has to realize there is a huge, potentially explosive problem staring it in the face; a problem which must be dealt with quickly, decisively and, above all, humanely. 

We must never forget we are dealing with people here, people who today are mostly perceived as a threat. But a lot of them have escaped conditions so horrific it would be inhuman to send them back. And immigration, if properly managed, can enrich societies in many ways.

Greece had to deal with a major wave of immigrants in the years 1990-2011, after the fall of communism. These were mostly from Rumania, Bugaria and Albania, but also eventually from all over the world. Although there have been problems – notably a rise in criminality as gangs infiltrated the country – a lot of these immigrant integrated successfully. They learnt Greek, made friends, blended in, set up businesses. And if some report instances of racism in their work or social environment, a recent study showed that this does not extend to their children attending Greek school. A new law is in the process of being passed, which will ease the acquiring of Greek nationality for these children. Ironically, quite a few of these immigrants have now gone back to their countries, where conditions have improved compared to the deteriorating ones in Greece.