Dutch Refugees “Rescue” Group Arrives in Greece

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Ignored by the Greek government and warned by its own in The Netherlands, a Dutch group that said it wants to help refugees in Greece and bring 150 back to their country, arrived in Greece and said it wants to deliver a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asking his help.

As have some 20 activist and human rights groups, the Dutch troupe said the situation in detention centers and camps housing more than 15,000 on Greek islands is a “humanitarian disaster” and that many living in tents and sub-par accommodations face the threat of physical and sexual violence.

The Netherlands’ Migration Minister Mark Harbers has said it is illegal to transport people without residency status, effectively putting up a barrier against the group bringing back any, if they can reach them and get them out of Greece and unless authorities agree.

“It’s Christmas, so let’s believe in miracles,” said Rikko Voorberg, who helped organize the convoy that hit Athens on Christmas Eve, delayed when its bus broken down soon after setting off in what the organizers admitted was a long-shot hope.

The Dutch government says it has contributed to an EU program of relocating migrants from Greece and Italy and is warning that any attempt to bring some of them to the Netherlands could be seen as people smuggling.

“Illegal transport of people without a right of residence would amount to smuggling and is punishable,” Harbers said. “Not only in the Netherlands, but also in the countries” the group has to drive through, he added, showing the obstacles faced.

Voorberg stressed that his group isn’t planning to smuggle anybody and will only bring back migrants if they are granted papers by Greece, where the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has paid no attention to criticism of conditions in the centers and camps despite warnings that it will get worse with the onset of winter and a cold snap which hit Greece the day after Christmas.