Pantelis Boukalas PANTELIS BOUKALAS

History in motion

COMMENT

Throughout the history of mankind the walls protecting cities under siege were never able to keep a determined enemy away forever – a first wave would be followed by a second, and so on. But when that enemy conquered those cities, the waves would stop. However, the overwhelming waves of migrating people that are reaching our shores today, mobilized by the desperate need for survival as opposed to the desire to conquer, will simply keep coming. These desperate people are trying to escape Middle Eastern, Asian and African countries where poverty, war and a lack of freedom threaten their very existence.

What has been set in motion now is not the persecution of certain populations, but history itself. This process cannot be halted, no matter how many fences are erected, no matter how many high walls are put up, such as the ones under construction by Hungary at its border with Serbia, or those envisioned by controversial mogul Donald Trump, a candidate for the Republicans’ presidential ticket, at the US-Mexico border. As for the Channel Tunnel, do the British truly believe that 50,000 – instead of 5,000 – determined refugees in Calais could be prevented from crossing at the mere sight of police officers and weapons? A recent editorial in The New York Times was poignant: “Residents on the island of Lesbos – where many refugees from the Middle East land because of its proximity to Turkey – have responded generously, providing meals, blankets and dry clothing. Their response should shame others in Europe, particularly the British government, which is panicking over the prospect that a mere 3,000 migrants in Calais, France, might make it across the English Channel.”

So far, despite officials’ meetings, the positions of Central and Northern Europe with regard to the refugee issue leaves a lot to be desired. As if Italy’s southern borders and Greece’s eastern borders were not the European Union’s own borders.

Also, up to now, with the exception of Greece’s Golden Dawn and Italy’s Northern League (with which extreme rightists in northern countries identify), Greek and Italian citizens have been showing their solidarity in every possible way. Especially in Greece, a country deeply wounded by the crisis and about to suffer fresh blows dealt by our fellow Europeans, the solidarity demonstrated by local communities on the islands, along with the humanitarian stance of the people of Athens, make up for the major gaps left by the country’s financial weakness and the imprudence of the government, which should have sought European funding much sooner. Because no matter how meager this assistance may be, in today’s Greece it seems huge.

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