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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Movers and hotspots

The war in Syria created a refugee crisis, which turned into a migration crisis, which has now turned into a crisis of people continually on the move. I call these people 'movers': we no longer know if they are refugees or economic migrants or opportunists. The crisis has now reached the stage where Greece has become the largest concentration camp (aka 'hotspot') in Europe. As the weather improves, more and more movers will make the journey; there seems to be absolutely no way of stopping them from moving. Since they are using the sea and not the land to make their move, the only way to stop them from making the crossing from Turkey to Greece is to push them back into the sinking rubber dinghies they came in, and let them drown. It's a completely different thing to push people back into the water, compared to pushing people back behind a fence. The former implies certain death, while the latter implies a great amount of discomfort: hunger, thirst, squalor, homelessness - but not death.

The hotspot at Schisto, an industrial zone noted for its rampant poverty and Roma camps, just outside Athens centre (it was featured in the BBC's recently-broadcast travel documentary about Greece which I reviewed here: http://www.organicallycooked.com/2016/02/greece-with-simon-reeve-bbc.html).

One could say it is Greece's fault that this is happening. When SYRIZA seized power (it wasn't exactly an easy governmental transition) just over a year ago, during their campaigning they had specifically stated that they would 'open the borders to everyone' (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l36y0pG4tlg - it's in Greek). Although the wall built on the border of Greece and Turkey has never been opened to allow the movers to come through, the movers have risked their lives to get to Greece (ie 'Europe' in their minds) with overcrowded unseaworthy vessels, wearing overpriced fake life-jackets made in Turkey.

Armed forces checking movers' documents, in order to enable them to leave the hotspot to continue their journey to the Greek border so that they can continue to walk through Europe by crossing into the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia.

But this is all by the by now. The fact is that these people would have made the move, whether via Greece or another country. While the movers keep coming, Greeks will continue to let them through. We'll feed, clothe and house them (that part is the least of the ordeal that both the movers and the Greeks face), but that's about it. I know it's not what the movers expect, but it's one of those things that are at the same time both right and wrong. We just don't have the heart to push them back into the water and let them drown. Heaven forbid we ever acquire such traits. The bottom line is: What would the world prefer to see? Lesbos-style movers, or Lampedusa-style?

Many new movers arrived on Tuesday morning in Piraeus harbour (Athens) after traveling from the Greek islands (notably Lesbos) where they originally entered Greece/Europe. If they want to avoid going to a hopspot, they make their way to the centre of Athens to Victoria Square.

Greeks are doing both the right thing and the wrong thing by allowing them to land on Greek soil, and other countries are also in their right not to allow them to pass onto their soil, which again is also wrong. In both cases, the movers find themselves in relative safety. What they will do after they arrive in Greece or hang around the Greek border is quite predictable: if they aren't permitted entry into another country by legal means, they will find a way to do it illegally. Look what happened just under two years ago in Crete (see http://www.organicallycooked.com/2014/04/trapped.html). After those movers arrived here, most of them left the area by various illegal means which aren't reported in the press - they did not wait for official help.


Trapped in Idomeni (a Greek border town), since the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia is stopped allowing Afghan movers through the border.

Unlike the Brexiteers of our times, Greeks don't fear immigration at all. I don't know if it’s fair to say this, but the truth is that Greeks no longer care so much about the origins or intentions of these movers, because it is an accepted fact now from all parties concerned with the European migration crisis that the movers don’t actually want to stay in Greece. So we know that we will see them go eventually, whether by legal or illegal means. We don’t mind helping them, because of our innate trait to share things with others. Greeks regard foreigners as exotic: foreigners could be a guest, host, stranger or friend, before they are regarded as a nuisance or an enemy. We still see the 'xenos' in a similar way to the ancient Greeks. So no one really worries much now about seeing these people in our country. We all know they don't want to be here. They want to go somewhere else, and that's what they will do. They aren't tourists coming here for a sunny holiday or to see the sights.

The humane way that Greece has treated the movers is really quite incredible, considering that other European countries have now taken on fascist elements in their politics:
"Going against the current of the rising xenophobia in Europe, many Greeks are mobilizing for the refugees who are flocking to their country. Thanks to the mobilization of the radical anti-racism left, even the influence of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn is declining."  http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2016/02/16/en-grece-le-probleme-n-est-plus-le-racisme-mais-la-pauvrete_1433818
While Switzerland and Denmark are confiscating movers' possessions; Poland and Hungary refuse to take in any movers; the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia built a barbed wire wall overnight (what for? to pander to the EU's fancies? the movers don't want to stay in their country either); a Belgian mayor insisted on passing a law saying that feeding movers is illegal (like they do for seagulls, to stop them from coming); Sweden is rejecting close to 100,000 asylum claims; Austria is allowing in just 80 movers per day (100,000 have made the crossing in less than 2 months); Brexiteers base their belief that Britain will be better outside the EU on immigration fears together with the mistaken belief that we can be independent in a world where borders are now a figment of the imagination; Germans are voicing their fears of the islamificaiton of Europe;, in Greece, we are collecting food and clothes for the movers, building pre-fabricated housing to shelter them, and as yet, there has not been heard one single claim that movers are raping Greek women.

The teenager is accused of attacking the woman at a migrant centre in Belgium. Many right-wing protesters (pictured) took to the streets after the Cologne sex attacks, which they blamed on the influx of migrants
This photo appeared in the British Daily Mail today. In another Daily mail article published today, a headline reads: "Taxpayers [in the UK] face bill of millions to tackle EU migrant crisis: Demand for refugee fund after arrivals soar to 102,000."  

In a very recent article (dated 11/2/16) in the Grexit-leaning (and generally speaking not-very-pro-Greece) Guardian, a highly leftist activist bandies about the racist Golden Dawn cliche by stating point-blank in his article:
"In austerity-ravaged Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn terrorises immigrants." http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/11/economic-crisis-europe-far-right-left-alternative-austerity
The writer clearly stereotypes Greek politics, without considering that Greek politics has evolved in so short a space of time. The simple truth is that we no longer hear many news stories of this type. Golden Dawn has 'evolved', just like Syriza has, because they both needed to. Golden Dawn has virtually disappeared from the streets. Greece has been and is still being billed as a racist country, but our reaction to the movers flooding our country is far from racist.

Last night's Greek TV news was as one would expect dominated by stories about the moving people, showing scenes of confusion and abandonment. I listened to one of the movers speaking to a reporter as he waited at Idomeni (the Greek border town at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia), presumably hoping that the border would eventually open. Many of the movers speak very good English, and I heard him say something along the lines to the following:
"Thank you for your hospitality. You have been very kind to us. But we don't want to stay here. We will go to Germany. We will go there no matter what, and we will have a good life. We cant stay here. We must go."
If I have one reservation about the movers, it's their final intentions. The movers seem to want to live in a Western European city where they will be given a job and a home. They fail to understand how unreasonable their demands are. Not everyone in Europe is able to have what they want, yet here we have a very large group of people who - in the mind of the average European (and Brexiteer, because they don't feel European, they feel British) - have not paid their dues in order to be able to live in such comfort.


Listen to the movers speaking (in very good English) about their present ordeal in Greece - this video was filmed yesterday. 

The movers are city people, and they want city breaks. They don't seem to understand that since they have chosen to move to another country, it isn't up to them where they will be placed. They need to understand that their present needs are different from their future desires. If they are offered something like a chance to live and work on the land, they should be prepared to take it. If not, this is where the racism will start, and they will have started it themselves.

The fact is that they can indeed stay in Greece, in a similar way to how 1 million refugees from Asia Minor were incorporated into a much smaller Greece in terms of territory in 1922-3. The Asia Minor refugees were given land on which they could build a home and feed themselves. Greece is still underdeveloped in many parts of the country, and there are many abandoned villages, especially in Crete, where is so much unused land. It's already being done in some parts of Spain and Italy (see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/23/jobs-refugees-godfather-corleone-sicily-mafia-cosa-nostra).

My understanding is that although the Greek government doesn't have the funds needed to help the movers, I'm sure that other states would help my country if only the movers themselves showed a willingness to stay in Greece. In fact, I would rather see them in my country than in Turkey, or wandering around fascist fear-mongering states. But they have to want to stay. If they don't want to stay, I cannot feel anything for them.

What will happen to the movers if they aren't able to move on after all? No one really knows. They wont stay in Greece, that's for sure. They'll keep in moving, perhaps even returning back to where they came from. They know Greece is a poor country - they can see her poverty in the way they are treated, and perhaps in the chaotic conditions that they are met with on arrival. One thing is certain: The crisis of the human convoy looks like a Greek problem, but this is not true. It is a pan-European crisis. If the movers haven't reached you yet, they're bound to be coming your way soon.

By stopping them from entering other countries, they may get the message, that they are not wanted there, or anywhere else for that matter. And this just might stop them from continuing to move. And then, defeated, they may move in reverse, going back to where they came from. That's why whatever we do is both right and wrong ay the same time. It's only right to let them in, and by keeping them out, we are telling them that they can't stay here. There is nothing for them. And so they will go, and the flow of the human convoy of movers will eventually stop. Until then, Greece will continue to let them in. Eventually, they will stop coming. At least, that is what we hope.

All photos published yesterday in protagon: for more photos, see http://www.protagon.gr/galleries/psyxes-pisw-apo-syrmata-44341062208

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