Greece bracing for possible onslaught of refugees if European relocation ends

By John Bozick

(Athens, Greece) —  The Refugee crisis currently plaguing the Greek Isles and large majority of the Mediterranean Coast can only be described in one way, it’s a mess. Even as the migration flow has slowed to around 50 plus people daily, the crisis has put a considerable amount of strain on not only the country of Greece, but also the entire EU.

The bureaucracy of the European Union, while keeping order, has made the process of relocation incredibly slow and time consuming. Motions such as the Dublin Accord, and the EU Turkey deal have placed further restrictions on how countries carry out relocation, lastly the main issue is that the future of the relocation program could remain in limbo after September 2017.

If the relocation program ends, thousands of refugees that never had the chance for relocation may be forced into staying in Greece, at least according to the opinions of the Greek Asylum Service.

“If the relocation program ends in September 2017, we’re obliged to take these people in here.” According to the Greek Asylum services spokeswoman Eleni Petraki.

“They think Germany is their dreamland, this dream is quickly fading. If the flows remain constant Greece can manage but if they return to the levels of 2015 the crisis will only get worse.”, she said.

While it looks like Greece may take in 10,000’s of new migrants, many in the country may not be open to this idea due to the current financial crisis. Some in the country believe that other EU states need to pull their weight and in the country of 23% unemployment, there are some groups that may downright oppose taking in refugees if the relocation program ends come September.

“We do not have the resources to feed these people, we do not even have enough resources to feed our own people and we don’t have the money to take in a majority of these refugees.”, said Ilias Kasidiaris, spokesman for the far-right Greek nationalist party Golden Dawn.

Golden Dawn has a history of violence against migrants in Greece, there is no telling what a national government controlled by Golden dawn may do if Greece suddenly finds itself taking in tens of thousands of new refugees.

Given the rise in Far-Right sentiment around the globe, some realize that if the economic crisis is not resolved by the next election, then the Golden Dawn may have a fighting chance to gain majority come 2019. The Golden Dawn believe that larger states like Germany need to pull more weight in taking in refugees.

“Germany must take in the majority, Greece the minority. The German state can handle this crisis better than Greece so they must take in more refugees than us.”, said Kasidiaris.

However, even if Greece finds itself taking in a large majority of these refugees, based on its current economic and political state, many refugees simply do not want to stay there.

“People want to go to Germany, Scandinavia, or Holland, no one wants to stay here because there’s 23 percent unemployment.”, said Associated Press bureau chief Elena Becatoros, who has covered the refugee crisis since it began in 2015.

Becatoros believes that given the slow rate of relocation the EU would have no choice but to extend the program beyond September 2017.

“I think it’s going to be extended because they are nowhere near their targets, France, which is taking the largest number at around 12,000, has only taken in close to 3000. Germany and the other EU countries are moving at a much slower rate.”, she said.

In actuality, the German state has relocated more refugees than a majority of other EU member states, at least according to the EU as of July 19th, 2017.

Germany has reportedly relocated 3,026 refugees from Italy, and 3,712 from Greece. These numbers are based on the total number formally pledged which is 11,250. The only EU state with numbers remotely close to Germany in terms of places formally pledged is France with 5,940.

Countries such as Denmark, Hungary, and Iceland have made no formal pledges, whereas Poland, which has only formally pledged to take in 100 individuals, has so far taken in zero. When other member states do this, it creates an incredible strain on not only Greece, but the entire relocation process as a whole.

As September 2017 fast approaches, the European Union has begun emergency planning for Greece that may help soften the blow if the relocation crisis ends in September. Speaking to the Associated Press, Migration Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos talked of a new program in which 1.3 Billion Euros would be at the disposal for the “management of the migration crisis”.

This program would implement a 151 million-euro program that would help refugees rent living accommodations in Greek cities and would also help them move out of the various camps scattered about the country.

A second program of 57.6 million euros would provide “refugees and asylum seekers” with a monthly cash stipend that works through a cash card system that would allow them to buy food, medication, and transportation. This sort of system has been implemented across a number of different camps throughout Greece already.

All in all, if the relocation program ends it will not be a burden for Greece alone, EU funding, the United Nations, and various Non-Governmental Agencies work will all have to work hand in hand in order to ensure the survival of the Greek state.

The idea of what will happen in September is still up in the air, some believe it may indeed end while others believe it will continue. Whether the relocation program ends though, Greece and the EU have some fallback plans in place to prevent the crisis from becoming as bad as it was at the beginning of 2015.

 

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