Migrants and Refugees, in the Shadows and Out in the Open, Loom as Election Issue

After the National Archaeological Museum closes, migrant and refugee families enter the plaza, with children playing soccer and their parents preparing the ground for sleep. (Photo by TNH)

ATHENS – With reports that migrants and refugees will be moved from overcrowded island facilities to the mainland, Athenians are wondering if the capital city’s crime and hygiene problems will get worse.

With many politicians and media outlets already referring to the start of a pre-election period – national elections must be held at the latest by October 2019, and there is a likelihood that the European Parliament elections scheduled for next May will also be the vehicle for Greek national elections –attention is being paid to the situation regarding immigrants as a potentially explosive political issue.

There are numerous places in Athens – especially Omonia Square and its environs – where everyone is a target for at least pickpocketing. Recent attacks in the Center allegedly by illegal entrants into the country have people on edge, and contemporary history shows that anxiety alone, not actual incidents, can fuel extremism.

In some places, migrants who are in the shadows during the day, tucked beneath trees at the edges of squares and plazas of important buildings like the National Archaeological Museum, come out at night and take over the public spaces, with heavily armed Greek police on guard not too far away.

While some citizens blame Greek and EU officials, even those who acknowledge their country’s humanitarian and international lawobligations are angry that the situation is not being handled better, both for the sake of the foreigners and their frightened fellow citizens.

Policemen’s shields lie against their bus parked recently near the National Archaeological Museum on 28 October Avenue. (Photo by TNH)
During the day the plaza of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens is filled with tourists, but some migrants enjoy shade from the sun beneath trees. (Photo by TNH)