Greece and Europe are Becoming Numb to Refugee Tragedies



refugeeIt was only a few months ago when the tragic death of little Aylan Kurdi became front-page news all over the world. Millions of words were written about the boy and the sad picture of him on the shore had millions of views.

Two days ago, 17 children lost their lives among the total 45 dead refugees found in the cold waters of the Aegean. Yet, it seems that no tears are left to shed for them. We read about 45 deaths and then we click for the next piece of news. In other words we reached the point that death and tragedy is a daily thing, a routine. The daily number of people drowned in the Aegean blur with the temperature degrees of the weather forecast: “Today we had 8 dead off Lesvos, the temperatures in Athens will be 3-12 degrees Celsius.” The refugee-related posts in social media have been reduced. It seems like we ran out of tears and our humanity on the issue has expired.

It is true that the Greek media have a lot on their plate these days. The focus has shifted to the farmers blocking the highways, the protesting lawyers and engineers, the dreaded new pension system, the continuing ego trip of Varoufakis, the election of Mitsotakis; the backflips of Tsipras, the jabs of Schaeuble, the empty words coming from the World Economic Forum, the threats of European leaders who propose kicking us out of the Schengen zone.

And yet, Greece deserves to get the Nobel Prize for Peace for showing our humanity to the poor souls landing on our shores seeking asylum.

But the bottom line is that the refugee tragedies are now an everyday thing. The frequency of an event makes it lose its newsworthiness, after all. Gradually we became numb to the daily drownings, we got used to it. Like the terminally ill who have learned to live with the pain and painkillers. Only the people of the islands, the men of the coast guard, the volunteers and the migration workers who witness the bodies on the shores are not numb yet.

Europe whistles indifferently at the daily tragedies in the Aegean. European leaders are focusing on quotas and fingerprinting. They criticize Greece for not doing its job but they say nothing about Turkey that took 3 billion euros to supposedly control its shores and stop human traffickers. Turkey has done absolutely nothing to stem the migrant flow through the Aegean and Greece gets all the blame for “not protecting Europe’s borders”.

Some have started accusing Europe for the deaths. But European leaders, for all their insensitivity on the issue, are not the human traffickers who pile up 50 people on an unmanned rickety boat that holds 20. They are not the Turkish authorities that allow this to happen. They are not the blood-thirsty jihadists who chased these people from their homes.

Lazily putting the blame on someone or something will not put an end to the daily tragedies. And it certainly doesn’t make us more human.