Despite Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ repeated calls for more support from Greece’s European partners over the migrant/refugee crisis, no one seems particularly worried, much less Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the other side of the Aegean.
That Greece will play the role of host to tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, whose numbers may even reach six digits depending on Turkey’s objectives, appears to be something that is being taken for granted.
What prospects do all these people have? They want to leave for other parts of Europe, which don’t want them and prefer instead to pay Greece money to keep them here. They don’t want to or cannot go back home. Turkey has all but closed its door to returns. Meanwhile inflows to the islands of the Aegean, as well as through the Evros land border, continue unabated. And local communities are starting to react. So what are we to do? There is no quick fix here.
Deploying our frigates to block the passage of boats coming from Turkey’s shores is not only completely at odds with our humanity and culture, it’s unconscionable. Nor can we force the Turks to prevent the dinghies from leaving their coast, even though the activity over there is visible from our side. The option of opening up the northern border into the Balkan corridor and allowing thousands of trapped migrants and refugees through to Central Europe so as to relieve some of the pressure here would enrage Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Poles etc, even though they have staunchly refused to take in their share under the European Union’s quota policy, without consequence.
The redistribution of some 60,000 migrants and refugees (according to official figures) to different camps on the mainland has provided some relief for the islands, but the problem persists and may end up being the government’s Achilles’ heel. Perhaps it is time to start talking about the option of a significant number of these people staying in Greece permanently and legally. Our society is strong enough to be able to assimilate these people – on the condition, of course, that they in turn respect its rules and customs. The 700,000 Albanians immigrants who live and work beside us are evidence that this is possible.