For a long time I’ve maintained that Greece’s role in the eyes of its EU brethren is to serve as the EU’s filter trap for immigrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East. Not everyone agreed with that. Now’s the chance to prove me wrong, Europe. DO SOMETHING.
The Grand Kabuki play between the rest of the EU and Greece over Greece’s financial crisis will drag on and on, without clear villains or heroes…despite the efforts of each side’s media sycophants to deify or vilify selected characters in those roles. But as is the nature of hype meeting reality, some who started out as populist stars are rapidly drifting into the Sarah Palin category (can’t wait for the comments on that one :)).
But in the midst of Greece’s economic catastrophe of historic proportions, there is one incontrovertible fact—refugees and illegal migrants are flooding its shores in unprecedented numbers. The Greek Coast Guard literally saves scores of lives every day, and the people of the affected islands (including tourists) have shown remarkable character and patience in the face of unorganized and ill-equipped officials and facilities—though it’s anybody’s guess how long that patience will last in the face of the relentless daily deluge.
In July alone, 50,000 arrived seeking refuge. With a population of ten million, that’s equivalent to Great Depression America experiencing 1,500,000 non-English speaking refugees struggling ashore in one month into rural Louisiana and dispersing from there to impoverished migrant camps set up across the state. There is no sign of the wave subsiding. So far, it’s up 750% over last year. The United Nations has called their conditions shameful. And no one's disputing it.
|Sergey Ponomarev photo on Island of Lesbos for NY Times|
For those escaping, their drive is to find a better life. Many are educated and seem able to pay the price to the smugglers. For the smugglers (and those who allow them to operate so openly) it’s all about the money. They couldn’t give a damn whether the passengers live or die. They’re just commodities, whose fate the smugglers leave to the sea and the Greek Coast Guard.
I doubt there is a leader in Europe who doesn’t have firm ideas on what must be done, they just lack the political will––though there are reports that Greece’s current government didn’t realize what it had to do to receive 500 million euros in funding aid from the EU for immigration and asylum projects.
Refugees seeking a better life will not stop fleeing to Greece (or Italy) on the way to their dream of making it to northern Europe (few see their futures in Greece).
Most fear lives of perpetual suffering if not certain death should they remain in their homelands, a realization that makes staying there—as opposed to risking all to make it to Greece—the only irrational decision. And so they will keep coming, no matter the risks or costs.
The smugglers know that.
The question is, when will Europe? And the rest of the world.