NY Times Magazine Spotlights Refugees in Lesbos

The cover of this past Sunday’s New York Times magazine, as well as 11 other pages, were dedicated to the change of the political climate in Europe regarding the reception of refugees from Syria, Africa, and elsewhere.

From the heroic grandmothers on Lesbos to the corpses of children who were washed onto the beaches by the Aegean sea, this depressing report describes the general situation in Europe – but Greece plays a starring role.

It is not pleasant. Indeed it is painful to read. And it raises questions. This is not the Greece we want. (The central events that are described began during the previous government.)

We all understand that the citizens of Greece, like so many other people, are psychologically tired of so many refugees. Many are struggling financially. People’s lives on the islands like Lesbos have been turned inside out.

We all understand that the EU has loaded a heavier burden onto Greece than it can bear to lift. We all understand that Turkey has weaponized the refugees and is doing everything possible to discredit Greece in this regard (this article does not mention Turkey).

Regardless, we must move to address this issue within a tolerable humanitarian – and within a legal – framework.
If the accusations of the article are correct – that a number of years ago Greek authorities used false allegations against two members of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) – then those Greek authorities that falsified the allegations must face justice.

I am not saying that refugees or members of NGOs are not capable of committing crimes.

But this cannot overshadow everything.

The issue of the plight of refugees is a deeply humanitarian matter – but it is also a fraught political issue. We are now in the latest chapter of this painful story, it’s heartbreaking to see more than a million Ukrainian refugees flee their country and rejoice at the reception they receive in Poland and elsewhere.

This is something that can change over time, as attitudes changed regarding refugees from Syria, Africa, and elsewhere.

I have written about this matter a few times. If we do not pay attention to the way Greece handles this issue, beyond its humanitarian dimension, it can tarnish the country’s image internationally.

Let us keep in mind that the way a society treats the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed characterizes everybody in that society.


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