Neglect compounding the refugee crisis

Neglect compounding the refugee crisis

In Greece we usually deal with crises first by underestimating the danger then by leaving those in the center of the storm to fend for themselves; when the problem becomes too great, we are at a loss, we wait for a solution from above.

In the end, when things fall apart, we try to find our way again. That’s how the debt crisis played out, that is how the refugee crisis is developing. In both cases, waiting for the deus ex machina only worsened things. If we do not learn to undertake our responsibilities, this pattern will keep being repeated.

The refugee issue is inflammable. On islands that host reception centers and in several local communities near camps, citizens, refugees and migrants are at the end of their patience.

The mix becomes even more explosive when we add the growing aggression of Golden Dawn fanatics and the lack of interest shown by authorities in some cases.

The recent violence on Lesvos and Chios was the first serious warning. If the government does not act swiftly to ease the situation, things could get worse.

The Education Ministry program to educate refugee children is laudable and necessary.

From the reactions, though, it appears that local communities were not prepared adequately, so that concerns would be eased, so that bigots and others exploiting the situation for political gain could be isolated, so that teachers could be supported.

When the situation is left solely to the local community and teachers, without citizens being informed of what is happening, the danger of tension remains high.

The lack of an agreement on refugees and migrants between the EU and Turkey would have been catastrophic for Greece.

Yet it was clear from the start that this deal would leave Greece at the mercy both of its EU partners and Turkey, as the result would depend on how many refugees our partners took in and on the number Turkey would allow to get to Greece.

We knew that tens of thousands of people would be trapped here, in a country that they did not want to stay in and which has not shown itself capable of handling such crises.

Despite this, the problems were allowed to build up for months following the March agreement.

On Thursday, Amnesty International praised Greeks for the help they have provided to refugees and migrants but decried the fact that most of those here are living in “appalling conditions.”

It noted that only some 3,000 people had been relocated from Greece to other EU member-states, whereas the number of places offered had come to about 6,500, rather than the planned 66,400.

This is the problem in a nutshell.

The solution depends on the EU, Greece (state, local communities and aid groups) and the refugees and migrants themselves.

Our partners must pick up their share of responsibility; the government must manage the situation better, informing citizens and refugees continually so as to pre-empt tension; the refugees and migrants must play an active role in organizing themselves and contributing to the better management of their stay, of their lives.

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