OPINION

Endless drama

Twelve bodies of drowned immigrants have so far been found on the shores of Evia while an unknown number met their death in the waves after the latest boat accident. Dozens of people shared the same fate this year, while the number of those who lost their lives in the Greek seas over the last few years is in the hundreds. Hordes of desperate people are trying to sneak into Greece from Turkey’s shores, packed aboard decrepit boats or freighters. From January to November 2002, Greece’s coast guard arrested 3,704 illegal migrants and 75 human traffickers in 262 incidents – that is nearly one case per day. They were not just of Turkish origin. Often they were Greeks, some of them in uniforms. Smugglers do not hesitate to trade on the desperate desire of Kurds, Afghans and others for a better life, charging about 1,500 to 2,000 euros per head for a passage from Turkey to Greece; which often becomes a passage to death. The fact that from 1997 more than 23,000 people have been arrested while trying to cross into Greece by sea underscores the dramatic social dimension of the issue. Especially during festive days like these, the sea is full of immigrant-carrying boats, as smugglers expect the coast guard to be less vigilant. Despite constant pressure from Greece and the EU, Turkey refuses to implement the bilateral agreement on illegal migration. Quite the opposite in fact, as Ankara seems to encourage the inflow of migrants to Greece in a show of disaffection whenever its ties with Athens or Brussels become tense. This, as well as the presence of Turkish spies among the scores of exhausted migrants, fails to offset the tragedy itself or its worldwide social implications. Border patrols are an imperative, unedifying as they may appear. Police measures are defensive in nature, as an attempt to protect our country from being overwhelmed by the seekers of an unrealizable dream. But they do little to uproot the problem. Developed states have to realize that unless they support the economic infrastructure of underdeveloped countries so that these can become more attractive to their populations, in a few decades, no border patrols will suffice to stop the multitudes of impoverished individuals from escaping their countries. Economic and educational aid from rich to poor countries, preferential trade agreements and anti-dumping measures are some of the things that would save millions of lives and, in the long term, even protect the interests of the prosperous West.