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Greece overwhelmed by the influx of migrants and war refugees

They arrived at the port of Piraeus on Tuesday morning: 250 war refugees from Syria. They hold a paper stating that they have a couple of days to decide what to do, stay in Greece or go to another country of the European Union. Several buses were waiting for them at the docks, took them to the nearby train station, some one hundred meters away. Men, women and children got on and off the buses, entered the station and took the train to downtown Athens.

migrants Greece

Refugees at the port of Piraeus

They exited the station into a sun-bathed square, looked around in fear and disappeared in the surrounding streets. They are left on themselves. They have no idea where to sleep, what to eat and how to survive in the big Greek city.

Video: Syrian war refugees at the port of Piraeus

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The ship had arrived from the Aegean islands of Chios and Kos, where the refugees had recently illegally entered the country.

100,000 migrants expected in 2015

“Greece is obliged to accept and nestle war refugees but it has no infrastructure for this,” Alternate Minister for Migration Tassia Christodoulopoulou told media and warned that “100,000 migrants are estimated to arrive to Greece in 2015.”

With the spring weather conditions the influx of illegal migrants arriving in Greece has dramatically increased during the last days. Chios, Lesvos, Kos, Samos, Gavdos are the islands opposite the Turkish coast where the human traffickers unload hundreds of desperate souls fleeing the war or dreadful economic situations in their countries. Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq… People chasing a dream for a better future away from home. People paying 2,500 euro per head to be transferred from Turkey to Greece and from here to other European countries like Sweden, Germany , Great Britain. Countries that refuse to accept them. They are trapped in Greece. And the debt-ridden country is overwhelmed by the problem.

Over the Easter weekend, 569 men, women and children illegally landed on the islands of Chios and Lesvos, a total of 793 migrants arrived with 17 boats. More than ten thousand people, exactly 10,445 arrived illegally in the first quarter of 2015. Others, hundreds, thousands are awaiting at the Turkish coast to reach Greece. Another wave of migrants go to Italy, where the situation is equally dramatic: 5,629 were rescued in last 3 days. 4000 still in rescue boats off  Italy. 

Government overwhelmed with the problem

The massive arrival of migrants and war refugees has turned into a major problem for the new Greek government that seems to have no design for measures to address the problem and no infrastructure. Several migrants’ associations reportedly try to take care of their countrymen, but the caravan keep coming.

The government signals that it is preparing an emergency response plan to address the issue and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for an extraordinary cabinet meeting today, with the participation of all ministers in charge. However the issue is not easy to be solved, then while SYRIZA plans to establish refugees camps on the islands, junior coalition partner Independent Greeks rejects the idea, claiming that this will increase the problem.

The issue has triggered also a war between the government and the opposition, with the media adding to the general hysteria with descriptions like “the migrants issue explodes,” and “situation out of control.”

Plans to address the problem

Tassia Christodoulopoulou told media this morning that the Migration Ministry plans to create infrastructure facilities with tents and toilets for the refugees and migrants in inactive military camps around Athens and in other big cities, while there is consideration to use empty state buildings as well. She claimed that the refugees in Athens are being provisionally hosted mostly by countrymen, while mainstream media accuse the government of bringing the refugees to Athens and abandon them there.

The government plan might be materialized by June, Christodoulopoulou said adding:

“There are three options: we either put them in detention centers, or we host them or we drawn them.”

On the funding issue, she said that Greece cannot solve the problem on national funds and stressing that there is currently a funding gap she added that Athens submits proposals to the European Commission to provide emergency aid for the refugees.

Νέα ταλαιπωρία για τους μετανάστες της Γαύδου – Κοιμήθηκαν στην πλατεία Βικτωρίας....

109 migrants from Somalia and Sudan in provisional shelter in Chania, Crete. The boat carrying them sank off Gavdos island last Thursday. They were transferred to Athens, but there was no shelter for all of them. According to media, some of them slept outdoors at Victoria Square. 41 children are being hosted at the Foreigners’ Department.

As for the common Greeks… Some of them feel pity with the people, some say they should stay in Turkey and some others fear of increased diseases and criminality.

Oh, and many wonder what our Greek EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos is doing to address the problem.


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One comment

  1. This is a humanitarian crisis, which should not only fall on the shoulders of border countries of the EU but shared responsibility of all member states.
    These people should not be treated as a problem but as people that have problems and need help.
    There is a risk that some politicians, looking for a springboard for their own ambitions, could make these refugees the scapegoats for the difficulties in Greece.
    I believe the Greek people are wise enough not to fall into that trap and ensuring the issue is shared by the whole of the EU would relieve some of the burden.