OPINION

The crime of indifference

The alleged rape of a 3-year-old Afghan child who was living with its family in an Athens park is a stain on our society. Not so much because someone committed such a crime – there are monsters everywhere – but because it has become commonplace to abandon the most needy sectors of society to their fate. However much we are each absorbed in our current personal and national woes, we cannot accept the fact that people who came to our country and who need our support are thrown onto the street, defenseless against every form of exploitation and violence. The Afghan family had been evicted from a building in central Athens in late July. Part of Greece’s mad rush toward the current impasse entailed a general indifference to the needs of prisoners, the ill, the aged, migrants and refugees. The wastefulness and the superficial prosperity were a golden carpet that hid very serious problems, allowing neglect and brutality to prevail where care was needed. Instead of using funds to create a framework for dealing with such problems, huge amounts were squandered without strategy, without a thought for those in need. In the case of illegal immigrants and refugees, this neglect appeared to be adopted as policy: If newcomers did not expect anything from Greece, they would keep moving, becoming a problem for other EU members. That’s how we found ourselves with «reception centers» that were overcrowded prisons, with a negligible number of asylum requests being granted, the abandonment of people on the streets without residence permits. If this indifference was planned, it was a great success. From the tens of thousands of people who entered the country each year, a comparatively small number chose to stay here; most moved on. But this policy was not a policy: Until now there has not been sufficient care taken of those who were «trapped» here (mostly families), either through their repatriation or the granting of residence permits. When the manner in which asylum requests are dealt with is so unclear and lacking in logic, when some state officials show such indifference to their fellow humans, then the weight that falls on the shoulders of employees of other services, ministries and municipalities – as well as volunteers – becomes even greater. These people are fighting to save our honor when others are indifferent. And the young Afghan’s tragedy shows just how great the crime of neglect and indifference can be.