Greece’s continuing refugee crisis

By Rachel Parkey and Emily Gams

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The spring 2015 Rome class worried that they might not be able to visit Greece as a consequence of the ongoing refugee crisis. Photo by Paulina Martin.

Earlier this year, the migrant crisis in Europe was a huge topic of discussion — both on campus and in the wider world — but what has been developing with this issue since it slipped down the ladder of the general public’s short attention span for global crises?

While this issue may seem old hat at this point, the fact that it is still an actual problem that people seem to be forgetting about is a serious matter. If people start becoming apathetic about the issue, it will be harder to find long-term solutions to the problem.

The fact of the matter is that while this problem is not our generation’s fault, we are the ones who will need to find solutions and fix the problems caused by earlier generations. If we don’t pay attention to this now, how will we know how to fix the problem later?

This issue could affect anyone from a politics major who will have to figure out how to balance out the world of international politics, to the economics major who will have to deal with a sideways global market, or an education major who will need to try to understand his students’ complicated backgrounds if the U.S. begins taking in more refugees once Europe reaches max capacity.

Before visiting the more recent developments, let’s take another look at what was happening toward the beginning of the refugee crisis.

Greece has been a key player in trying to accommodate the surge of refugees since the beginning, establishing camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos for those who have been relocated from Turkey’s west coast and the regions affected by conflict.

However, looking back, we can also note that Greece has been politically and economically unstable for years, if not decades, especially if one considers the Greek bailout crisis which was more or less resolved by the 2014 deal with the EU.

The fall Rome class of 2014 was in Athens several months after the 2014 deal, and the backlash of this agreement was still being felt. This was demonstrated most clearly by the armed policemen in many of the public squares, u ndoubtedly placed there to discourage public protests.  The following Rome class of spring 2015 may remember rumors that they would not be able to travel to Greece.

All this leads to Greece being unprepared to accept upwards of 160,000 migrants in little more than a year. Other countries have been helping as this migrant crisis has developed, namely Germany and Turkey, but these countries have recently been having increased conflict as the number of migrants continues to rise — albeit at a lower rate than this time last year. The number of migrants increased in August to about 100 a day from about 50 a day in May and June.

One explanation for the uptick is the civil unrest in Turkey after the recently attempted coup.

Tensions have also been rising between the EU and Turkey.  Turkey has been in negotiations to enter the EU for over a decade.  When the deal to close the Balkans route to the EU was brokered, Turkey insisted that its citizens be granted visa-free access to the Schengen Area by October, a privilege held by EU citizens.

The EU’s criticism of Turkey’s reaction to the coup and stalled negotiations to grant that access have lead to increased tension over Turkey’s cooperation in preventing migrants from leaving Turkey.  Additionally, Turkey’s recent military surge into Syria, targeting Kurdish forces along with ISIS, is not winning any praise from the EU either.

As already noted, Greece is ill-prepared to handle an increase in migrants.  The camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos are already over capacity.  The migrants live in overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

The residents of the islands, whose primary industry is tourism, are struggling as well.  Greece is preparing to move migrants from the islands to a new camp on the mainland, but it is feared that this will only encourage more migrants to come.

This issue will affect us not just in our future careers and lives. We are already confronting similar issues in our day-to-day lives as students at the University of Dallas. Texas has lead the nation in resettling refugees for the past four years, with about 7,200 refugees relocating to Texas in 2015.  Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry has worked to expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in Latin America during his tenure.

There is very little doubt that our generation must learn to become global citizens, for we soon shall be, regardless of whether we are prepared.

 

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