Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

The pitfalls of the refugee issue

COMMENT

TAGS: Migration, Politics

There are no easy solutions to the migrant/refugee issue. The influx will not ease, nor will the justified anger of islanders. The government obviously underestimated the issue, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has openly admitted.

In fact, a part of New Democracy had invested in the issue before the elections and they now feel compromised. Some officials put themselves in the role of sorcerer’s apprentice, proposing all sorts of wacky ideas from floating barriers to closed centers on desert islands without any serious preparation. 

Now the time of truth has arrived. The government made the decision to build closed detention centers on the eastern Aegean islands. It has met with fierce protests, which are set to intensify. However, it cannot afford to back down as this will have disastrous consequences on any other front it decides to open in the coming months, from soccer to foreclosures to further social security reforms. Mitsotakis is aware of this, hence the determination. 

The question is to what extent government officials, New Democracy’s local administration representatives, the party’s public relations team and the state apparatus will be able to live up to the challenge. The easy solution would be to run away. Crisis management and managing major projects in a short period of time is not exactly the strongest point of the Greek political class or state.

Politically, the refugee issue can cause damage. Not so much from the left, because the views of main opposition SYRIZA have nothing to do with the concerns of local citizens. However, a lot of pressure is coming from the right, which could prove threatening if any charismatic personalities or new political movements appear with sufficient funding. We are living in an age of extreme anti-systematic radicalization where one could easily set the whole house on fire.

Supporting a government trying to put out fires and manage the problem should be self-evident. We cannot afford to find ourselves before uncontrollable, chaotic situations, considering the state of the country. The serpent’s egg will hatch quickly under the present conditions. A rumor or an accidental tragedy could lead to a very serious situation.

It is also important for Europeans to be well aware of just how critical the situation is. It is counterproductive to criticize local communities and snub their anxieties. Considering that even Germany went through a political crisis over refugees, it is not difficult to understand just how easy it would be to destabilize Greece. And that would be very unfair after so many years of crisis and suffering.

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