A Skai journalist recently alleged that a foreign member of a nongovernment organization based on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos told him he could not take pictures inside the Moria reception center without the organization’s permission. When the journalist replied that he did not need permission from an NGO to do his job, the official invited him for a briefing and sternly delivered his clarifications.
I was recently told by a local resident that at the Vostanio General Hospital in the island capital Mytilene, NGO workers escorting migrants for medical services, ensure – with the self-righteousness of the humanitarian – that migrant patients get priority over locals. Another said that whenever a migrant is caught stealing goods from a grocery store, their volunteer patrons show up to protect them. Some business owners actually prefer to let these people run away with their pickings rather than get involved with the NGOs and the trouble they bring.
Some 80 NGOs operate on Lesvos and another 70 on Chios. I am not interested in where they get their funding from. I hope that the Greek government will soon provide judicial authorities with details about their finances and operation. However, I am interested in the fact that a large part of their activity consists of incriminating members of the local community and, by extension, the country. As a result, rather than helping Greece deal with the problem, the rest of Europe accuses the country of negligence and mismanagement.
One such symptom of negligence and mismanagement is the fact that the Greek state has left the migrant/refugee issue in the hands of NGOs, which operate as guardians, and has done nothing to protect the local communities. So it is only natural that people living on mainland Greece oppose plans to set up reception facilities here, after they have seen what is happening on Lesvos, Chios and Samos. The morality talk and pledges about closed facilities provide very little comfort.
The incrimination of local communities is the result of the former SYRIZA government’s cooperation with NGOs. The recent protest rallies on the Aegean islands were a major step in the right direction. They showed that island communities refuse to shoulder the guilt that some had attempted to saddle them with in previous years.
Two years ago, officials accused the people of Mytilene of being racist because they protested against the occupation of town’s central square. No one would dare say the same about the people who took part in the recent demonstrations. If the state really wants to regain the lost trust, it will first have to rid us of the people who indulge in humanitarian tourism at our expense.