World Press View: Greece Unready for Big Migrant Crisis

In this Sept. 1, 2015 (18.37gmt/21.37 local) photo Syrian migrants disembark from the catamaran Terra Jet at the Athens' port of Piraeus. About 1,800 refugees arrived from the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos as the country has been overwhelmed by record numbers of migrants this year. The vast majority of the people are from Syria and Afghanistan reaching from the nearby Turkish coasts and try to cross Balkans and continue to more prosperous European countries. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Until now, Greece has left it up to volunteers, charities, NGO’s and others to help hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants, world press reports say.

Some excerpts:

Aid Worker Says Greece “Abandoned” Refugees

Reuters

Veteran aid worker Stathis Kyrousis is appalled by Greece’s handling of the refugee crisis engulfing its holiday islands, decrying worsening conditions as the world reeled from images of a 3-year-old boy who drowned trying to reach its shores.

Kyrousis, a Greek national who heads the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Greece and the Balkans, said the authorities’ response was the most frustrating he had experienced in his 23 years in humanitarian work.

Greece, viewed by migrants as a gateway to the European Union, has seen a surge in the number of refugees and migrants – mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – arriving in rubber dinghies from neighboring Turkey this summer.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates 80,000 people landed on the Greek coast in August, with at least 12 Syrian refugees – including 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, his brother and mother – drowning this week in a bid to reach the southeastern Aegean island of Kos from Turkey.

A photograph of Aylan’s tiny body washed up on a beach at the Turkish resort of Bodrum has spawned sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees.

“I have never seen such a poor reception to a refugee situation – and this is backed up by my colleagues,” Kyrousis said in a phone interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The sheer numbers [of arrivals] are not unmanageable. In Africa we had far more in terms of people. The Greek government is behaving as though nothing is happening,” said Kyrousis, 62, who has worked in disaster zones in Africa and Asia.

In a recent blog post he said people have been “completely abandoned,” with MSF stepping in to fill the void of a central authority to cater for the refugees.

Danish Tourists Helping Refugees in Greece

The Local DK

Danish tour operator Spies and Swedish partner Ving have reported that despite a slow start, their offer to allow tourists to take up to 20 additional kilos of goods to Greece has recently caught-on with Danish and Swedish tourists.

The scheme allows all customers flying out of Copenhagen Airport and Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport and Copenhagen Airport in Denmark to Kos and Lesbos on flights operated by Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia.

Ving spokeswoman Charlotte Hallencreutz said that up to 500 passengers carrying over ten tonnes of supplies including clothes, blankets and toys have taken advantage of the offer.

“It started with 20-25 donations per flight, but last Sunday’s aircraft to Lesbos from Copenhagen had up to 50 donations out of the 212 passengers on board,” Hallencreutz told The Local.

She added that the demand for the offer has been greatest in Denmark.

“The flight to Lesbos from Copenhagen is sold out for the next two Sundays – because many have chosen to travel with us to the island to help the immigrants,” Hallencreutz said.

A lot of the tourists who don’t take an extra bag of clothes are still helping refugees. The tour companies say that a lot of their customers pack extra supplies in their luggage and leave goods behind before heading back home for Denmark or Sweden.

Report from Leros, Greece

The Huffington Post/Judith Ansara

September 2, 2015. Within a few hours of arriving here we have rented a scooter and are on our way to meet Martina at the Port Police Station in the town of Lakki.

Martina is pointed out to us, a cell phone near her ear. There are hundreds of refugees basically locked inside the Port Police compound and others huddled on the sidewalks.

Within the next few hours we are handing out water, crackers, diapers, baby formula…. Trying to answer questions we don’t know how to answer, including what is happening, how long they will be there, why there is no food or water or toilets, why they can’t leave to go find food or a shower or a bathroom.

We are looking for shoes and clothes in a small dark moldy room where our supplies, such as they are, have been stored. There is one overflowing porto-potty. No privacy, no beds, very little shade, only cement or dirt to sleep on.

We are handed an empty insulin injector, shown infected cuts, goopy eyes on children. It is immediately clear that there is way too little in the way of basic needs, and that the delivery of what little is there is completely totally chaotic, with a few volunteers trying to fill the gaping holes as best they can.

hen Martina and her friend Dora, a psychologist, whisk us to the port where we watch Martina try to insure that the people who have made it this far have legitimate tickets for the boat to Athens that is leaving soon. She is a whirlwind of energy – a constantly moving target. So we watch and wait, trying to get a handle on how we might be of any help at all. Waiting to get on the 11pm boat to Athens, most are sitting at café tables with some food and beverages. Some are sitting on the curb with their children. We offer bottles of water and boxes of biscuits.

Back at the Port Police Station there are clusters of people outside the gates. We don’t yet understand why some are inside and others are milling around or trying to sleep on the sidewalks. We find some who need medical assistance. Alla, a lovely Syrian woman of about 30, has an enlarged spleen. “spleen spleen” and “big big” says her cousin. Alla shows me her medical papers. She has no more medicine. She is in pain.

I begin to understand we are simultaneously part of the kindness corps and of the police, trying somehow to do crowd control. Armed with our compassion and desire to do good, yet knowing the harsh limitations of the system, we become the naysayers, the ones saying “so sorry so sorry.”