Open letter to Y. Mouzalas, Alternate Minister of Immigration Policy

Recommending policies as win-win strategies for both Greece and refugees

Kester Ratcliff

Dear Mr Mouzalas,

I read your comments  reported by Reuters yesterday, “Greece wants to send thousands of migrants back to Turkey in coming weeks”. I sympathise with your despair, I can imagine what it feels like to be forced to implement policies which you don’t really approve of and then blamed for doing it too. However, policies created out of despair do not tend to be realistic or rational in a long-term way, and I imagine you worry about that too. I wish you could take a holiday and then read and reflect on this when you’re more refreshed after a couple of weeks!
This is not just another criticism of Greece. I get it, I really do. The point of this letter is to suggest some policies that would be win-win strategies for both Greece and refugees. This doesn’t have to be a pro-refugees and anti-Greece vs. anti-refugees and pro-Greece debate. The four policies I propose, in brief, are:

1. Publicly and officially demand that the Temporary Protection Directive 2001 be activated. In the last two years, we have seen the clearest mass influx in the history of Europe since the aftermath of WW2, so for the rest of the EU to not acknowledge it as a ‘mass influx’ is just a dishonest way of evading their obligations. You do not have to stand for this any longer. The facts and the law are on your side, and a much larger share of European citizens would support you if you took a coherent principled stand, with positive alternative plans. Amnesty’s global survey of public attitudes to refugees found that in every country citizens are more welcoming of refugees than their governments, and the gap between public attitudes and government policy is widest in my own country, the UK. The EC and EuCo, naturally, only represent that share of public opinion which bays for their draconian approach, but the share of public opinion that would support you if you opposed them is not only comparable in numbers but qualitatively more committed in terms of democratic engagement and voluntary action.

2. Insist that the EU Relocation scheme, which is the only mechanism agreed so far to implement all Member States’ common obligation in Article 78(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU to practice solidarity and responsibility sharing when there is a mass influx of refugees into the EU, should be made to work properly. Not just token numbers, realistic numbers. We can all see that extreme slowness of the asylum procedures across Europe is not just due to lack of resources, administrative incompetence, or just a consequence of thoroughness, but is part of the overall political strategy of deterrence. However, as the Asylum Service said, inefficient asylum procedures are effectively a pull-factor for unfounded asylum claims, or I would suggest more specifically it makes it more likely that mass influxes will be more mixed and thus harder to fairly and efficiently assess who really needs international protection and who doesn’t. The European Council and Commission’s strategy of making the asylum procedures in Greece even slower by inserting admissibility interviews regarding Turkey, for political reasons having nothing objectively to do with the present or recent applicants’ claims, to increase waiting times and then use their desperation as a deterrent signal to others who might otherwise try to seek protection in Europe, probably is postponing another mass influx, but when it comes it will be more mixed and then even harder for Greece and Italy to deal with.

3. Refuse to carry out or make refugees wait longer for admissibility interviews before they get access to the EU Relocation scheme. This insertion of admissibility interviews into the Greek asylum procedures is for reasons totally different from the “rules of methodology” and “individual, objective and impartial assessments” in EU law. Comparison to the admissibility interview procedure in the context of Dublin III transfers is inapplicable, because the main objective of the Relocation Decision was to relieve the burdens on Greece and there was no such provision in the Relocation Decision for admissibility interviews before access to the EU Relocation scheme. If the Asylum Service and EASO respect the facts of each individual’s case, there will be no significant number of asylum seekers returned to Turkey. The asylum seekers now on the islands are going to be here indefinitely until politicians acknowledge reality and accept that it is necessary to find or make a solution, which should be relocation. If you stand up to the bullying by the European Council and the Commission rather than passing on the same kind of treatment onto refugees, many MEPs would support you in this - just call them, please.

4. Paragraph 25 of the Relocation Decision is discriminatory, because it permanently excludes individuals from eligibility for relocation based on general statistics about other people from their countries of origin. Relocation is not in itself a right, but whenever a State or an agreement of States grants a significant benefit to a certain group and not another based on a status, the difference in treatment must be proportionate to a legitimate objective. The legitimate objectives here are efficiency of the asylum system and not relocating a significant number of people who will later be found to have no needs for international protection and then incur further costs removing them. If the scheme positively presumed in favour of applicants as provided for in paragraph 25, but allowed beneficiaries of international protection from other countries of origin to access relocation after their substantive claims have been found to be well-founded, that would be proportionate to the legitimate objectives as well as non-discriminatory. Furthermore, increasing the scope of the Relocation scheme in this manner would also relieve the administrative and reception burdens on Greece even more.

Greece so far has been more humane and decent while in more economically and politically challenging circumstances than any other EU country. But the European Council and European Commission’s set of policies are so flagrantly unrealistic that they have no chance of succeeding even according to their own aims, which are evil. Greece is suffering from the same crisis of solidarity and forgetfulness of the common values which the European post-war peace was –and still is– founded on as the refugees are now suffering from.

The previous approach of Greece making common cause with the refugees and demanding that Europe live up to its claimed values and really practice solidarity and share responsibility for the common good was the right way. In working with refugees everyday, I have observed that despair is socially infectious, so for those of us working with refugees it is important for our own sanity and theirs to keep reminding ourselves to take courage and be determined about finding genuine solutions, and never giving up.

The refugees are, rightly, required to substantiate their claims, with detailed facts about what happened to them. How about you do the same with your claims? Or the other politicians in the European Council substantiate their claims? Never since the 1930s has the popularity of a political opinion or policy mattered so much more than its objective truthfulness.

This is a global problem of a swing to populism, across the political spectrum, not just on the right-wing, and it is not just a European problem. It has been characterised as a ‘Post-Truth’ political era. I am instinctively and dogmatically an egalitarian, but this consumeristic kind of populism which disregards or despises objectivity and thinks justice is merely a procedural technicality or a matter of opinion made by authorities and not a matter of truth that should concern every human being makes me seriously afraid for humanity in my lifetime. We are currently accelerating backwards in terms of human rights in practice and functional democracy in Europe, and Greece is on the frontline in more ways than one.

Returning “more than half” the asylum seekers on the islands now and “in full accordance with international law” is so unrealistic it is nonsense. It would be possible to return more than half the asylum seekers on the islands now, but, if objective facts matter at all in this process, it is certainly not possible to do so in full accordance with international law, or Greek law, or just common human natural sense of justice.

I am here every day for the last six weeks listening to the refugees’ stories. Listening and asking open questions to just draw out the facts. Speaking objectively and impartially, as asylum decisions are required to be by law, almost everyone has strong factual and legally pertinent reasons why Turkey is not safe for them and they cannot genuinely get asylum there.

I’ve listened to about 80 individuals now, for about an hour each. Honestly, if you were to listen to the detailed facts of what happened to them, you could not say that “more than half” should be found to have inadmissible claims in Greece. Some politicians refuse to acknowledge realities which they think their voters don’t like, but this does not actually change objective reality. This sort of political avoidance tactic actually leads to policies which make reality even worse and then the reality still has to be dealt with later. It would of course be a very good thing if Turkey genuinely became a safe third country, but it is clearly not now, and it is hard to imagine how it could really become a safe third country for decades starting from where they’re at in terms of functional democracy and human rights applied in practice now.

Almost everyone has been shot at by Turkish border guards or soldiers to force them back across the Syrian border, and many people were thus forced or terrorised back into Syria and made several attempts at crossing before they eventually got through Turkey. Several people told me they saw other refugees, including children, shot and killed while trying to cross the border. Many people said they were severely beaten by Turkish police or soldiers in prison, and in some cases it clearly crossed the line into torture. Many people either experienced being forced back to Syria on a previous attempt before they succeeded in getting across Turkey or were threatened with forcible return or expulsion to Syria when they were captured by Turkish police. This is not the behaviour of a State that “respects the principle of non-refoulement”. Refoulement is not exceptional in Turkey, it is routine and increasing since the EU’s interventions, and that is only one of five criteria in the safe third country concept.

Whereas Greece cannot offer jobs to most of the refugees here now, Turkey chooses not to register most of the 3 million refugees it ‘hosts’ for any sort of international or temporary protection status and give them work permits because keeping 85% of them unregistered means allowing them to work illegally so that they be illegally exploited and mistreated in work with no recourse to police protection because they are ‘illegal’. This is how Turkey has the highest number of refugees of any country worldwide now but also extraordinarily high economic growth, because it has gained a slave / trafficked persons labour force.

There is no significant proportion of inadmissible claims to be found here. Unless your administration is willing to completely ignore the facts of people’s cases or ignore the law, there is no way, no chance, to forcibly return any significant number of asylum seekers to Turkey legally. Even by gerrymandering the Appeals Authority committees, the appeals will still go onwards to the European courts, and the European Council and European Commission do not have as much undue influence there. If anything it could speed up the demise of the deal by hastening a European court judgement against the whole system.

Let’s be realistic - the EU-Turkey deal is not going to hold, and I’m sure you know the reasons better than me, and that’s why you’re so desperate to make it hold.
For the benefit of our mutual readers, let’s recap a few points it may fall at:

Firstly, it was founded on fantastical assumptions in the first place, because there never really was a significant proportion of inadmissible or unfounded claims here. Almost everyone here has strong reasons to need asylum, so claiming to return asylum seekers and other migrants to Turkey “in full accordance with international law” is literally preposterous.

Secondly, Erdogan is not going to keep on stopping the refugee boats leaving Turkey or pushing them back by any means necessary before they reach the EU frontier at the Greek territorial waters line when he realises he is not going to get visa-free Schengen travel for Turks, because there is no way Turkey can or is willing to go through the 73 legislative amendments required to make its legal system sufficiently compatible with European law. The EU’s payments for extraterritorial refoulement services are not enough to maintain the deal on their own, because the bribes collected by the smugglers’ networks, of course largely overlapping with the Turkish state authorities, are probably between half and about equal to the EU’s counter-bribes, which are as yet only pledged, and we both know what EU pledges of money are like at actually turning up on time.

Thirdly, there are at least 4 legal challenges going to the European courts so far just that I know of, and it only takes one of them to succeed to blow a big legal hole in the implementation of the deal. The European Parliament is also catching up and may even break out of its apparently merely advisory role at some point in the not-too-distant future.

You do not have to make policies out of despair. Greece does not have to continue to take the blame for being forced to implement at arm’s length Europe’s systematic human rights abuses.
Greece still could and should insist that the Temporary Protection Directive 2001 be activated. It is the only implementation system available and agreed so far for a constitutional commitment of all Member States, not essentially something optional. If Greece must pay its a pound of flesh, blood and all, because of mere contract law, the rest of Europe must observe fundamental human rights in practice which are more essential to justice. There has been no clearer instance of a ‘mass influx’ since the refugee mass movements after WW2, so the fact that the European Commission still refuses to acknowledge what this is and trigger the legal mechanism designed for this kind of situation, is nothing short of disingenuous.

At least it would be a wise contingency strategy to begin campaigning now to get the Temporary Protection Directive activated if or when the mass influx of Syrian refugees resumes again. Again, to do so would be a win-win strategy for Greece and the refugees.


Kester Ratcliff is a refugee solidarity volunteer and human rights activist. He is one of the coordinators for Calais Refugee Solidarity Bristol, Calais People to People Solidarity - Action from UK, and People to People Solidarity Southern/ South-Eastern Europe,


 

Refugees without asylum, states without reason, societies without illusions


 Some thoughts on the deal of shame between EU-Turkey

 
Dimosthenis Papadatos-Anagnostopoulos
 
 
It only took four months for Wolfgang Schäuble's “sincere” statement regarding the refugees –namely that “They are not desired in Europe”– to become a guideline for the whole of the European Union, at the helm of which, and let us bear this in mind, are neither Marine Le Pen nor Nigel Farage, as yet. It took just four months to dismiss the supposed “war against the peoples' smugglers” doctrine and explicitly acknowledge through the EU-Turkey Agreement, that the aim of the EU is to “put an end to the refugee flows.” And just like that, along with the pretexts, the commitment of the member states to the Geneva Convention and to the New York Protocol,  came to an end: a commitment to a framework of international protection which obliged the Western World to remember what happened in the past to those populations that were regarded as redundant, so that history does not repeat itself.

By no means is the existing framework of international protection an anthem an ideal solution  to the open borders. On the contrary, it excludes the “irregular” immigrants, and by this exclusion, it forces them to confront the consequences of decoupling immigration policy from labour policy, from as far back as the beginning of 2000, leaving  immigrants exposed to the “parallel legality” of mass arrests, refoulements and refugee camps. However, even if it excluded, even if it restricted someone with familiar obstacles when applying for and receiving asylum, this framework covered at least the refugees. Today this protection, and all the historical burden of the World War II behind it, have been canceled. This cancellation was celebrated by the Greek government as a “step forward” and a “diplomatic success”; the same cancellation that the Head of the British department of Amnesty International has hailed as a “dark day for the Geneva Convention, Europe and the mankind,” while UNICEF added that from now on minor refugees and immigrants will be returned to Turkey, where they will face an uncertain future.
 
No reason: the Pre-announced End to the International Protection

The cancellation of the Geneva Convention is a historical change, a change to a continuity. What I mean to say is that it is not the current “objective” of the refugee “crisis” that annuls the protection of refugees in practice, but the effort of the European states to shake off its “burden” over the years. This effort goes back more than a decade, when the present flows, as well as the economic crisis with which they intersect, could not be possibly have been predicted. 

In March 2003, Tony Blair presented the European partners with a plan for  “improving the management of the refugee flows,” based on two axes: improvement of the protection that refugees receive in countries neighbouring to their country of origin (in any case away from prospering Europe...) and setting up asylum request centres outside the European Union. The project would be financed by the European Commission from July 2003 and its pilot implementation was planned to take place secretly in Croatia, which back then was not a member of the “European family.”

On the same wavelength, out of the 4 billion euros that the EU allocated during the period 2007-2013 to the immigration and refugee policy, about half of it (1,82 billion) was directed to border controls, whereas just 17% went to the support of the asylum procedures. In September 2014, at a time when the bloodshed in Syria had already uprooted millions of people, the British NGO Oxfam maintained that “the rich countries have committed themselves to offer safe haven to 37.432 people, which is 1% out of the 3 million refugees in the neighbouring countries”. In October 2014, when Italy terminated the Mare Nostrum operation, thanks to which more than 150.000 people had been rescued at sea within a year, the Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano stated that the aim of the government was to “entrust the examination of the asylum seekers to outposts of the EU in Africa, where they would assess who is entitled asylum status and who is not.” The Spanish Prime Minister shared the same objective, that is to “externalise” the responsibility for the refugees, seeking ways of rejecting the asylum requests, if possible, before they enter the country by crossing the Moroccan borders.

Last summer indications showed that something was about to change, with a provision that 160.000 refugees from Greece and Italy would be relocated to other EU countries. Out of 160.000 refugees, however, only 937 people were included in this programme.
 
The End of the Illusion: the Greek Government played a Key Role to putting an End to the Geneva Convention

Let us go back to the EU-Turkey Agreement. A key to the suspension of the right to receive asylum, Liberation points out, is the recognition of Turkey as a safe third country. This is the legal framework, the European Commission has come up with since Wednesday: if someone applies for asylum in Greece, their file will be examined at a certain hot-spot and if it turns out that they came in Greece through Turkey, a safe third country, their request will be rejected. According to euro2day.gr, this was a request on the part of the Greek Prime Minister: “we call EASO and the European Commission,” it is stated in the relevant document, “to contribute by submitting reports that confirm that Turkey, as a first country of asylum and as a third country, is safe,” as if the government is clueless of the issues of security in our neighbouring country. As if anyone would be persuaded by the very same chorus we listen to repeatedly after every failure, as we have done already in this case: “if only you knew how much worse things would have been otherwise...”
 
The Refugee Crisis is Neither Exceptional nor Temporary
All those who scarcely followed the developments of the refugee issue should know that the refugee “crisis,” which was supposed to be solved by the Agreement, is nothing more than the predictable impasse of a European policy focused on managing/ preventing the “unwanted” strangers – an impasse against the equally foreseeable consequences of the lingering bloodshed in the Middle East.

As far as Greece is concerned, the duration and the dimension of the “crisis” could have been predicted from at least mid-2014: the humanitarian crisis in the islands of the North Eastern Aegean Sea and the urgent needs for accommodation and medical treatment, which were brought to light by the hunger strike of the Syrian people in December 2014, had signified the issue. Nevertheless, the EU as well as the Greek governments dealt with it as if it was a temporary phenomenon.

In view of the worsening crisis, which is any case difficult to handle by means of a ruined state apparatus, the present government took some initiative contrary to the misanthropic policy of New Democracy such as prohibiting the refoulements and by abolishing the detention centres. In its second term of office, however, at best it took responsibilities by receiving refugees aiming (in vain) at a certain debt relief, exploiting instrumentally and shortsightedly the humanitarian offer of millions of people all over the country. In the worst case, by denouncing the people who showed their solidarity as “ignorant,” “idealists” or even instigators of illegal actions, the Greek government adjusted to other versions of the European anti-refugee policy: it accepted the militarisation (fences, Frontex, NATO), vehemently argued for the position that “Turkey should receive all the refugees,” and finally opened up the refugee camps, foreshadowing mass refoulements of the “irregular” immigrants. To cut a long story short, not only did it not open the borders, as it was provocatively accused by the right-wing parties, but has already counted more than 300 drowned refugees in the Greek seas.

At the same time, it took no action in order to activate the European Directive 2001/55/EC, for which Syiriza pressed so hard when it was member of the opposition. The Greek Government refused to involve the army to aid with accommodation and feeding efforts, before it finally delegated the whole management of the refugee issue to it. It never occurred to the Greek government to plan ahead for refugee settlements, although the sealing of the Western Balkans’ Route was foreshadowed in several formal documents as far back as October 2015, alluding to the confinement of tens of thousands refugees in the country. Having started from the right position, that the refugee issue is not a national one, but rather a European issue, the government did not think that it should come up with a national plan, apart from fulfilling last minute needs, which were to be covered by the NGOs, as Y. Mouzalas admitted in an interview he gave to SKAI TV. In an effort to balance its role as a guardian and a policeman, the Greek government embraced the assessment that short and long term national planning would weaken the negotiating position of the country against the EU, if it would not be regarded as a signal to the people's smugglers.  Just like that, the deliberate inability of the state apparatus was promoted whereas the negotiating “tool” of the country was exhausted at protecting the national sovereignty of the Aegean Sea, before the well-known eccentricities of the ministers fighting for Macedonia take place.
 
And now what? (Without illusions)

At the moment the number of refugees in Greece amounts to 46.000. While the Agreement with Turkey is waiting be approved by the Greek parliament, according to the Greek government, Idomeni and the islands are going to be evacuated promptly and the people will be directed to the reception centres. Up to this moment, there is no guarantee about the conditions as well as the stay of the refugees in the country.

While the Greek government is committed only by an agreement that abolishes the right to asylum in a safe country and New Democracy pushes for a fiercer implementation of it, it is urgent that this agreement is put to question. First of all, it should not be ratified by the Greek Parliament. Secondly, the spatial segregation of the refugees should be questioned by the very Greek society; the refugees should come to the cities and to the neighborhoods. The accommodation centres do not constitute a solution for a population, which due to the closed borders has no other possibility than to stay in the country. The fulfillment of the needs of the refugees by NGOs is equally precarious; this condition, which has been encouraged by the European Committee by financing humanitarian organisations instead of the government, consolidates that the state withdraws from critical functions that are addressed to the whole of the Greek society, as well as the refugees. The policy of the intentional inability, as a means of pressure towards the EU, jeopardises people's lives and should be abandoned. In view of a historical regression, the solidarity movement should not be taken for granted; for the time being, however, it is our only counterweight to horror.

Translated by Anastasia Lambropoulou

First published in Greek on k-lab, 21.3.2016.
 

 

Greece: refugee crisis on a knife’s edge

Dimitris Christopoulos
 
The following text is written before both the Malta Summit and the Paris terror attacks of November 13th. It is more than certain that particularly the Paris events will seal the European management of the refugee crisis, driving EU member-States to enforce  restrictive policies. Still, this won't bring about any "solutions". It might, on the contrary, lead to opposite results. 
 
1,000% increase in refugee flows!

By the end of winter last year, it became clear that there would be a dramatic escalation in the flow of refugees; people had lost any hope of returning to their homeland –mainly Syria– from the bordering countries, and they decided to take the long road to Europe. However, even the most educated of the projections back then failed to conceive the severity of the refugee crisis that followed: in 2014 Greece received 77,000 people and there was an expectation of three times this figure in 2015.  Things, however, turned out slightly differently:  up to mid-October the total number of migrants and refugees was well over half a million.  And a few days later we are witnessing the Aegean becoming a watery grave for hundreds of people, as the weather is getting worse and people are trying to make their passage before winter makes sea crossing impossible. Chances are that, if there is no change, this tragedy will continue well into November.  Autumn is a perfect time for both hopes and fatalities.  One thing is for sure:  the overall 2015 figure will be around 700,000 people, an astonishing 1,000% increase compared to 2014.
 
Greece is indeed in a very difficult position:  as if it hadn’t got enough on its plate, it now has to handle flows of refugees under unbearable conditions.  What has the Greek state done up to now?  What are the positive and negative aspects of its handling of the refugee crisis?
 
Major victory: shifting the agenda
The government’s most significant accomplishment is the shifting of the agenda: judging from their performance in the past, we are, unfortunately, almost certain that previous governments would have sustained the narrative we had known for years – i.e. “make their life a living hell so that they don’t come at all or they leave as soon as possible”.  Rhetoric shifted from talking about “reclaiming our city centres” to praising “support for war victims”.  We shifted from pro-active and violent push-backs in the Aegean to search and rescue operations.  I would have liked to be able to argue that we have also shifted from detention centres to somewhere else but I hesitate because there is nothing in place; the country is missing any kind of serious infrastructure alternative to detention.
 
This is serious stuff:  in the midst of their own desperation and social anguish, Greek people still haven’t turned refugees into scapegoats, blaming them for all their trouble.  Staying calm, showing understanding that in many cases turned into solidarity in the face of the tragedy refugees were going through, Greek people have demonstrated a remarkable human maturity.  Either due to the tone of the Government’s rhetoric, or due to the deep emotion that the pictures of dead children has evoked, or just because they realised that other, more drastic solutions would effectively mean murdering refugees, Greeks have perceived the refugee tragedy in a humanitarian and realistic way.   Even the Golden Dawn fascists failed to raise the issue during their pre-election campaign; they understood there was not the scope they had expected there to be.  On its part, New Democracy made a futile, and failed, attempt to highlight it.  All political parties of the so-called “constitutional axis”, including the Right, are now very cautious when referring to the refugee issue.  The notion of “Greeks’ humanity” is widely acknowledged, even if it is just a pretence.  And I will explain why.
 
The major drawback:  little more than words
The major positive narrative about the refugee crisis that the Government has put forward, has been crucial in making sure that the Greek public reacts in a calm way; this should not be underestimated.  Had there been another government in power, Europe would have run the risk of having yet another Hungary on Aegean shores. European Union would then be shedding crocodile tears, publicly deploring the situation, and rubbing their hands in glee behind closed doors as it would have found a government to do the dirty work exactly where it should be done.  Back in 2012, when Greece was putting up the Evros fence, the EU did not see our country as a miasma. Today I don’t believe that the EU considers the possibility of demolishing the fence or even allowing people to pass freely through. Quite the opposite, Hungary is building walls, acting to the detriment of all the rest of the EU, in the sense that these walls would just “protect” Hungary; they would only change the direction of the refugee flows. But if Greece were to carry out forced returns in the Aegean, if it were to send troops to its borders, this would not be seen as Greece looking after its own little national self; it would be Greece defending the common European “interest”.  However, fortunately, things didn’t turn out quite that way.
But beyond that, what has the Greek state actually done?  Humanitarianism is much more than playing the generous traffic policeman on refugee crossroads, showing people the road to the North and nothing else.  Of course, Greece is not refugees’ final destination, everybody knows that.  But the fact that we are a transit country shouldn’t be an excuse for Greece to shirk its responsibilities towards these people.  Greek facilities today can accommodate 400 unaccompanied minors, 600 asylum seekers and 700 people at the Elaionas transit centre in Athens, i.e. 1,700 places in total.  This is not what a European state should look like in 2015; it is a disgrace.
 
At the mini Summit in Brussels on 25 October, Greece agreed to provide accommodation for 20,000 people through subsidised rented flats, plus temporary accommodation facilities for 30,000 more people.  So Greece has to do what it hasn’t done over the past decade; and to deliver it in 10 weeks - not an easy task.  I am trying to get my head around it but I cannot see how the government is going to pull this one off.  Greek public administration, from ministers to clerks, have a very powerful mindset:  the country’s single obligation towards these people is to make sure that no one is drowned and to let them cross the country quietly; and that’s that.  Come 2016, the EU will once again have to face the fact that Greece most probably will not have delivered on its promises. And then, the “relocation” agreement will be up in the air. An agreement that, in any case, excludes the Afghanis, the second largest refugee group who are less welcome to Europe.  So Greece - and Serbia – the generous traffic policemen of the region, will become Europe’s warehouse wardens.
 
For Greece the refugee issue is on a knife edge; the sooner we are clear about this, the better.  At the end of the day, humanitarianism means more when it takes the form of action rather than words. Even now, at the end of 2015, in the game’s extra time, Greece needs to take some action; it needs to show, for the first time, that it is able to assume part of the common European responsibility.  Otherwise, the way things are going, we will end up taking the blame for much more than our fair share.

Dimitris Christopoulos is the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights, an Associate Professor of Political Science, Panteion University, Athens.
 
 
Translated by Mary Zambetaki
 
First published in Greek on RedNotebook, 2.11.2015
 
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