13 September 2020   Leave a comment

The COVID-19 pandemic has crowded out news in world politics, and in the US the election and the wildfires on the West Coast has further limited coverage of other events. One of the more tragic events over the last few weeks is the collapse of a refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos. The camp was overfull with about 12,500 people (four times the capacity of the camp), mostly from Syria, who had hoped to find refuge in the European Union. After an outbreak of COVID-19 in the camp, there were protests over the quarantine measures imposed by the Greek government and these protests led to the burning of the camp. The resulting chaos has drained the resources of the Greek residents of the island and many of the refugees are refusing to move to a new temporary tent city.

In many respects, the situation is amplified by the current tension between Greece and Turkey over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turks essentially control the inflow of refugees into Greece and the possible threat of Turkey releasing a greater flood of refugees into Greece complicates any possible resolution. And the reluctance of the EU to take in more refugees from Greece has damaged Greek relations with its partners in the EU. Unfortunately, the situation in Lesbos was probably designed to fail as a way of discouraging additional refugees from arriving. The Guardian explains:

“The former mayor of Lesbos Spyros Galinos agrees. The chaos and degradation of Moria, he observed three years ago, seemed to have been deliberately engineered by officials in Athens and Brussels to send a message to potential new migrants that “the path across the Aegean isn’t worth it”. If the Moria camp were to bear a message, the journalist Rachel Donadio observed, it would be: “Welcome to Europe. Now go home.”

“’Deterrence’ has become the watchword of immigration policy around the world. From Australia to South Africa to America to Europe, the aim is to make conditions for undocumented migrants so unbearable that no more will want to come. It’s why the EU has spent millions recruiting armies, militias and criminal gangs across North Africa and the Middle East to capture and incarcerate would-be migrants in the most degrading of conditions. It’s why Greece has apparently taken to expelling them by abandoning them at sea. It’s why camps such as Moria exist.”

The sad truth is that the refugee crisis has been shunted aside by the rich countries and there is no reason to think that there will be any initiatives to address the inflow of people who are simply trying to escape from civil war and poverty. The inability of the world to address the crisis augurs ill for the future as the number of refugees will likely increase in the future due to the climate crisis. There are now more than 80 million displaced people in the world and all of them lack the protections of a state.

Overcrowding in the Refugee Camp on Lesbos.

Posted September 13, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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