The refugee problem and the role of Greece
Since the beginning of 2015 almost one million people have passed through the coast of Turkey in one of the Greek islands, trying to reach one of the rich countries of northern Europe. This is the biggest massive population displacement in recent history, and one of the major humanitarian crises which Europe has faced after World War 2.
The problems happen to pass by the coastlines of our own country and affects us all. This problem is unfortunately getting bigger and bigger since Greece is in the brink of bankruptcy and the Greek State and its people have difficulty in sustaining themselves. Nevertheless these people are in need of charity and local people give it plentifully, despite of the problems they face on their own.
Refugees and assistance from the natives
Initially people living in Greece underestimated the problem and the size of refugees coming from the east. Another thing I noticed while speaking with others about this issue was that our knowledge of specific aspects of the problem appeared to be very limited.
It’s a fact that we are mostly disappointed once more by the attitude of the European Union. Like it happened with the financial crisis in Greece, the country was more or less left alone to cope with a tremendous problem and instead of help, it received bad and unsatisfying comments from other member-countries of the EU.
I believe this is totally unfair since thousands of refugees arrive in Greece daily, and the country is given very little help and financial funding and support from the E.U. to deal with the problem, even though this is clearly a common European problem and not a problem of just Greece. Furthermore, it all happens during a period where Greece is literally struggling to survive and heal its own wounds.
Nevertheless, in a country where about 30% of the people are unemployed and over 30% of the population is below poverty levels, Greeks have received the refugees very well with a positive and caring attitude. How could they not, actually since a large percentage of the Greek population were themselves refugees from the Near East less than a century ago.
Their families, as it happened with mine for example, were forced to leave their homes and property at the coasts of Turkey and come to leave in Greece for the rest of their lives. These are therefore just too many similarities that remind Greeks that historical disaster, since refuges today still leave the Turkish coasts to come to Greece.
My grandfather and mother used to narrate their experiences as refugees as they left their homeplace after many centuries and totally unexpectedly. Although many years had passed and they finally managed to settle down and have a new life that became better and better by the time, I could see the pain in their eyes and I can now spot the same look in refugees from Syria and other countries that are coming to Greece.
Charity work, emigrants and new challenges
Greeks in general express their feeling of sympathy and solidarity towards refugee problems in Greece, which is confirmed by their own actions. Even poor people that would normally be considered themselves for charity give whatever they can spare. Non-Government Organizations from Greece and abroad try to assist as much as they can and many Greeks act on their own. For example, my family together with friends made some sandwiches and gave dry clothes to refugees living at a central area in Athens, because there were about 3000 people hungry and wet from the rain, since they did not have a place to stay yet.
This work of charity and solidarity is taking place daily in many parts of Greece and especially near the northern borders where most of the refugees are gathering with the dream just to pass the borders and finally arrive at a wealthy European country like Germany or France to settle down and build a new life.
They are afraid to stay at refugee camps in order not to be “trapped” there and their journey is delayed, so they rather prefer to stay in open areas by the thousands to be closer to the borders with all the extra problems this causes them. This of course creates more problems and challenges to all, firstly to the refugees themselves and eventually to the Greek state, to NGOs and all volunteers that are trying to help.