Europe’s Hypocrisy Over the Migrant Crisis in Greece



Migrants and refugees leave the flaming Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. Credit: Thanasis Voulgarakis/Greek Reporter

The fire that devastated the Moria refugee and migrant camp generated lots of crocodile tears in the EU, yet the grave problem of 13,000 people crowded into a facility created for 3,000 to 4,500 still remains — just as it has for over four years now.

The hazy European policy on migration and the 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey, that was never implemented in reality, created a monster in the Moria camp on Lesvos that only grows in size, along with justifiable rage.

All the messages of solidarity for the migrants cramped in Moria from European nations were as substantial as the smoke from the burning camp that blew away with the wind. There were no suggestions or concrete plans proposed for the 13,000 people wandering around on Lesvos.

And the tears did not hide the fact that camps like the one at Moria are nothing more than a European creation.

The deal signed with Turkey in March of 2016 was part of a plan to keep all the refugees and migrants coming from Turkey, in Greece. Preferably on the islands, so there would be fewer chances for them to cross illegally into the more affluent Northern or Western Europe at some point.

Both the previous government and the current one tacitly agreed to that.

So the reception and identification camp on Lesvos became a kind of a jail — with an unlimited capacity. It is hypocritical on the part of the Greek government to search for the perpetrators because no one in the camp was happy to be there.

Not the families from Syria. And definitely not the individual young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, North and sub-Saharan Africa. So seeking out the guilty ones who set the fires is not at all significant.

The living conditions in the Moria camp were inhuman. Perhaps this was part of the plan to deter more migrants arriving from Turkey. It seems that no efforts were made to limit the number of humans piled up inside Moria. So it was just a matter of time before the lid blew up.

Let’s not forget that the Moria camp was built in 2013 as an identification center of the Greek police for people wishing to seek asylum. It was supposed to be a temporary accommodation until all the asylum requests and relevant procedures were completed.

Yet that changed drastically in 2015 when the influx reached gargantuan proportions reminiscent of the refugee flows of World War II.

At the time, migrants and refugees were free to move to the European country of their choice. But all that changed within a year, when in 2016 Europe shut its borders to asylum seekers, as each European country received dozens or even hundreds of thousands of them.

With the closure of the so-called “Balkan corridor,” gradually all the European borders closed, leading to a significant number of refugees and asylum seekers being trapped on Greek territory.

The highway outside the Moria refugee and migrant camp is full of people fleeing the fire that started there on Wednesday morning. Credit: Thanasis Voulgarakis/Greek Reporter

That was when the agreement between the EU and Turkey came into being, with its core being the attempt to stop the flow of refugees into Europe. The stated goal was for Turkey to prevent the departure of refugees from the Turkish coast, and for Europe to return them to Turkey if they managed to reach the Greek islands.

The key to this agreement was for asylum seekers to remain on the Greek islands. To be precise, the provisions of the agreement were that they would remain on the islands and would not move to the Greek mainland.

That is, the EU agreement with Turkey was that asylum seekers would remain trapped in Greece — and more specifically would remain trapped in the Greek islands — until they returned to Turkey.

It was a deal that worked for both Turkey and the EU, with the loser being Greece — simply because Turkey never implemented the plan. In fact, Turkey seemingly never even attempted to stop boatloads of migrants and refugees leaving its coasts for the Greek islands.

At the same time, Europe was indirectly sending the message that it was not at all a given that one would obtain asylum after landing in Greece with the intention of moving further into the continent. Additionally, the poor living conditions in camps like the one in Moria were meant to discourage asylum-seekers.

The EU poured money into places like Moria, but not to improve the living conditions. The purpose was — and is — to give the Greek government money to sustain them and keep migrants and refugees there for an indefinite time.

Meanwhile, as of last year, Turkey started using migrants and refugees as hapless pawns in its expansionist aims. Often, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened that he would open the borders and flood Europe with over three million Syrian refugees and hundreds of thousands of migrants from other countries unless Europe satisfies his territorial whims.

A case in point here is the forced attempt to have more than twelve thousand migrants entering Greece from the Evros border with the help of Turkish police in March. Greek police and other armed forces managed to stop them at the border, but it was a difficult task. At least it gave Europe a taste of Erdogan’s true intentions.

At the moment, the three questions that need to be answered directly are whether Europe is willing to take in more migrants and refugees, if the nations of the EU are willing to aid Greece in stopping the limitless migrant flow arriving from Turkey and whether more pressure will be put on Ankara to stop allowing boatfuls of migrants leaving its shores with destination Greece.

The EU’s kind wishes of sympathy and solidarity will not suffice any longer.