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Editorial

Decision Time Has Arrived for the Refugee Issue

February 27, 2020

A few days ago, The Washington Post launched a massive and particularly harsh – though not totally unjust – attack on Greece over the refugee issue.

An attack that, if not answered in a timely manner, will create a highly negative image of the country just as its international image was improving, thereby damaging its interests – i.e., tourism.

That the attack is largely unjust is revealed even by the title of the article: Migrants Wait in Bread Lines While Tourists Dine on Grilled Octopus in Greece.

Are they serious?

Of course, one cannot argue that the conditions in refugee camps are ideal. And how could they be?

Greece is overwhelmed by refugees – the country is at a crucial crossroads. The time has come for big decisions.

On the one hand, the government is called upon to take care of its own struggling population, which is almost under siege by the refugees, and on the other, it is called upon to take care of the refugees even as their unmanageable numbers grow day by day.

The time has come for Greece to do the obvious: to take care of its own population first and foremost.
The number of refugees has reached 38,000. 19,400 people reside in the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos – many times more than the number it was built for.

Look: one must be inhuman not to be affected by the dramatic situation of refugees.

It would be inhumane for one’s soul not to be pained by the children suffering from the cold and malnutrition.
We Greeks have our own experience with such catastrophes, we know what it means to be refugees and we know all about genocides.

We feel their pain and we demonstrated that to them in many ways.

How can we forget that old woman of Lesvos – she died recently – holding a refugee in her arms and feeding her?
But there are limits – which seem to have been reached long ago.

Unfortunately, Chico Harlan, the Post reporter who wrote the report from Lesvos, paints a biased portrait. His article does not present the full picture of this extremely serious situation. It does not, for example, make any reference to the sacrifices made by Greeks in general to assist the refugees, and in particular, he ignores the destruction that the hordes of refugees caused for example, in the village of Moria.

It also assigns no responsibility to the Turks, who treat the refugees as pawns in their anti-Greece strategy.
And it does not contain properly harsh criticism of the EU, which seems only to know how to moralize and give sermons. While the rest of Europe claims superior humanitarian sensitivity, why don’t they accept refugees to lighten the burden on Greece?

The article simply notes that “a closed-off Europe has not offered another place to put them, even as rights groups decry the camps as an emblem of the continent’s failures.”

And then, what sense does it make to compare the tourists and refugees that arrive in a country?

What does it mean to say that tourists are eating grilled octopus while the refugees are suffering? Is this a rational comparison? Is Greece supposed to turn away the tourists?

Nevertheless, we must note that Greece can and should do a better job with the refugees.

And very soon.

For example, it is clear from the article that something is not right regarding food distribution.

The country is paying a company 5.01 euros a day for each refugee. We are not talking about a small amount of money, considering that they serve 57,000 meals a day.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

In conclusion, after a wrong start, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged his mistake and restored the Ministry of Immigration.

Whether he has picked the most appropriate officials to handle the matter will become apparent in time, but it is certain that decision time has arrived.

There is no more time to spare.

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