“I‘ve been here in Idomeni, with my brothers and 5 minor nephews, for 10 days. The situation is extremely difficult here. We don’t have enough food. We are hungry and we have no other clothes. We can’t look after our hygiene because the facilities are not sufficient. There is no safe way to continue our journey. The border is almost closed for us fleeing war. I don’t know what to do. I feel hopeless. I just want to begin to live normally again,” said J., a 26 year-old Syrian asylum seeker to a Caritas Greece staff two days ago in Idomeni.
During the last months, Greece has been the entry point to thousands of people who, like J. and his relatives, are seeking protection in the EU. This is happening at a time when the Greek government is still feeling the strains of the economic crisis and cannot offer EU-standard treatment to the people stuck on the Greek islands, in Athens and at the border with FYROM. Caritas Greece is a witness to this dramatic situation. “It’s a very tense atmosphere. It’s cold, people are trying to find anything to make a fire and keep warm. There’s a lack of tents and warm food. Many families with children have been waiting for days at the border,” said Evelyn Karastamati, National Coordinator in Caritas Greece.
European policy makers should follow the example of the Greek people, who, despite the rude effects of austerity measures, are offering what they can to help the refugees in need. Their pockets might be empty, but the Greek people’s generosity and kindness is overflowing and saving many lives.
European policy makers should follow the example of the Greek people, who, despite the rude effects of austerity measures, are offering what they can to help the refugees in need. “Their pockets might be empty, but the Greek people’s generosity and kindness is overflowing and saving many lives,” said Evelyn Karastamati.
The failure of Member States to apply a comprehensive and humane approach to this situation is putting the EU’s credibility at stake. Greece, its people and all the migrants and refugees on its soil are paying a very high price.
Once again, it is the people most in need who are suffering unnecessarily from the lack of coordinated EU-wide governance. Greece cannot respond to this situation alone.
This is a European problem that requires European solutions. Solidarity between Member States is needed now more than ever to defeat the globalisation of indifference and the uprising of populistic movements. Quick-fix emergency funding alone will not suffice. On the contrary, the solutions must consider the long-term reality. Therefore, Caritas Europa urges EU Heads of State and governments to retract from converting Greece into an indefinite refugee camp and to take into account our solution-oriented proposals:
- Relocate the pledged 160,000 persons as agreed in September 2015;
- Cease plans to erect borders around Greece and to outsource the management of migration from mainland Europe to any non-EU country;
- Address the root causes of migration and enable more legal channels to the EU;
- Devise alternatives to Dublin: suppress the rule of the first country of arrival;
Source: Caritas Europa
Cover photo: Getty/ DANIEL MIHAILESCU