|Thousands of migrants stranded on the Greek islands will be offered €2,000 per person by the European Union to return to their home countries. / Photo by: jk21 via 123rf|
Thousands of migrants stranded on the Greek islands will be offered €2,000 per person by the European Union to return to their home countries, reports the New York Times. This is a part of the political and economic union’s bid to lighten the burden on Greece and ease the pressure in camps.
European Union’s voluntary scheme
The amount that the EU is offering under its voluntary scheme is more than five times the usual amount of €370 it offered under the voluntary return program run by the International Organization for Migration to help people rebuild their lives in the country from which they came. They said that their €2,000 offer will last for a month as they fear that the scheme may attract more migrants to enter Europe. They clarified, though, that the offer will not apply to refugees who have no places to return to but want only to incentivize migrants. It will also be available only for migrants who arrived in the country before January 1. The commission hoped 5,000 migrants will take their offer although they lack the statistics on how many people on the Greek Islands are considered “economic migrants” instead of refugees.
EU’s commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson said that it is an “opportunity” to unload some burden on the Greek islands and for some people that are in the camps. Data from the United Nations revealed that more than 40,000 people arrived in Greece in the fourth quarter of 2019 and most of these migrants entered the country by sea. It was in 2015 when Greece showed generosity and compassion to over one million asylum seekers hoping to reach Europe but the mood of the country’s citizens and authorities shifted after an influx of migrants entering their country.
Greeks have put roadblocks on their border islands, including Lesbos, to prevent migrants from reaching their camps when there are no civilian patrols. Journalists and aid workers who are seen helping the migrants are also attacked by the villagers. The Greek authorities have urged the EU to offer them more support so that their asylum system will not be clogged up.
The Mediterranean country is now at the epicenter of a refugee crisis. In 2015, it took a role in offering refuge for victims of war. This was also a part of their Victims of Violence (VoV) project meant to provide psychological and medical care, social assistance, and legal advice to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who are survivors of extreme violence or torture. Among the thousands of people trapped in Greece are those tortured and persecuted for their religious and political beliefs, gender, sexual identity, and race. The purpose of the VoV project is to restore people’s physical and mental health and dignity.
Today, the country is witnessing the outbreak of xenophobia--the prejudice or dislike against people from other countries. In July 2019, the New Democracy government elected wanted to decongest the Greek islands. The crisis also accelerated last February as islanders attacked the riot police that was dispatched from Athens to guard detention camps. It was a “show of resistance,” described magazine Jacobin. The New Democracy Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis likewise insisted that the country is protecting itself from migrant “invasion.” He added that it is no longer a refugee-migration issue. The tension also heightened after neighboring Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that their government opened the doors for passage into Greece and EU, by extension.
In response to Turkey’s decision, the Greek government took the necessary steps, such as suspending the asylum applications, ensuring to deport people who enter their country illegally, and deploying forces in their border. Some Greek residents also took matters into their hands by creating civilian patrols to stop the influx of migrants.
|The Mediterranean country is now at the epicenter of a refugee crisis. / Photo by: titonz via 123rf|
How Greeks see migrants in statistics
A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that seven in 10 Greeks or 69% of the population said they support taking refugees from nations where people are fleeing from violence and war. Yet, 92% of the citizens would disapprove of the manner that the European Union is handling the refugee issue. A majority (82%) of Greeks also said they wanted no additional or fewer migrants to move to their country while 74% consider immigrants a “burden” to their country as they take social benefits and jobs too. Only 10% of Greeks opposed, saying that immigrants are making their country stronger because of their talents and hard work. The flow of migrants fell when Turkey and the EU reached an agreement in March 2016 but the numbers of refugees increased again in 2017 and 2018 as they entered Europe through other entry points, such as Spain and Italy. In 2017, an estimated 1.2 million immigrants were living in Greece, roughly comprising 11% of Greece’s population in that year, according to the United Nations.
It has been reported by the New York Times that the Greek government is also detaining migrants at a secret extrajudicial location before the expel them to Turkey “without due process.” Some migrants said in an interview that they have been stripped of their belongings, beaten, captured, and expelled from Greece without giving them the chance to speak to a lawyer or claim asylum. This process is illegal and is considered refoulement.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees shared its Situation Mediterranean Situation, which had data on the most common nationalities of the Mediterranean Sea and land arrivals from January 2020. They are as follows: Afghanistan (1,573), Syrian Arab Republic (647), Bangladesh (440), Algeria (316), Côte d'Ivoire (283), Sudan (245), Dem. Rep. of the Congo (186), Somalia (172), Iraq (171), and others (596). In 2018, there were 66,969 asylum applications but 15,559 of them were rejected, as shared by the Greek Council for Refugees.
Net migration outflow
Database company Statista also showed the number of expatriates from Greece in 2017, by their country of destination. The statistics show that 26,128 of Greek citizens relocated to Germany, 11,000 to the United Kingdom, and 3,628 to the Netherlands. Other countries included in the net migration outflow are Switzerland (1,670), Sweden (1,381), Belgium (1,341), United States (1,314), Austria (1,172), France (1,169), Turkey (641), Spain (640), Italy (535), Luxembourg (512), Norway (511), Denmark (481), Australia (410), Canada (410), Finland (231), Czech Republic (179), Poland (155), Korea (144), Japan (105), Hungary (96), Iceland (73), Slovenia (58), Estonia (52), Slovak Republic (40), New Zealand (22), Mexico (14), Israel (9), and Latvia (6).
The crisis has now arrived at the shores of the EU, but it was foreseeable Their voluntary scheme of offering €2,000 per migrant could be a method to earn its reputation for promoting human welfare.