The pandemic has complicated an already difficult situation in migration and relations with Turkey. The way that Greece is handling Covid-19, though, might suggest a way to deal with other issues, too. As many have observed, the situation demands national consensus and self-discipline. This is difficult when Ankara has stoked concern and anger in Greece with its arbitrary deal with Tripoli on an exclusive economic zone between them, by trying to push migrants and refugees across the border at Evros and the Aegean islands, and with its continual challenges to Greek and Cypriot borders and rights. Beyond the need for parties to agree, and for a more serious public debate, we need policies that will stop the spread of problems and contribute toward their “therapy.” It is not enough to do the right thing – it must be seen to be right as well.
On the immigration issue, it is inconceivable that problems which have remained unsolved for years may now be compounded by thousands of refugees finding themselves on the streets when programs that helped keep them in apartments come to an end. When we win battles in public health and at the borders it is tragic that the country’s image should be sullied by mismanaging the fate of people who sought our help. The Migration and Asylum Ministry has to function with absolute transparency and efficiency, to show that Greece is doing all it can, with responsibility, sensitivity and respect for the rights of our fellow humans and in accordance with international treaties.
For years, Turkey has challenged Greek and Cypriot rights by all means: politically, militarily and legally (questioning laws and treaties). Recently, it has invested much in propaganda, accusing Greece of violence against migrants whom Turkey itself exploits to test Greece’s borders. It also makes much of the fact that it is supporting the “United Nations-recognized” government in Tripoli even as it breaks the UN embargo by sending arms and mercenaries to Libya. In today’s world, where every country is absorbed by the pandemic, Turkey’s hypocrisy not only goes unpunished but also finds enthusiastic support in international news media. Greece does not deprive its people of rights, the way Turkey does; Greece does not export violence, the way Turkey does. Greece ought to show its strengths next to Turkey’s weaknesses. It must show that the correct, human management of problems is not for show, that it strengthens society and is a most powerful weapon.